The Tokamachi Snow Festival takes place in late February each year and is one of the best winter festivals in the country. Day and night events in various locations around the town take place over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Snow sculptures compete to win one of the many prizes and are incredible works of art.
This year saw mild temperatures and even a bit of rain in the run up to the festival so it wasn't the easiest year for the sculptors, but even so, their works were amazing. There are lots of fun activities, and long tubing runs were in several locations which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. One of the main events is the Snow Carnival on Saturday night. Big name music artists performed on a giant snow stage made of thousands of truckloads of snow and there was also a fashion show of some of Tokamachi's famous kimonos.
The Carnival finishes up with an impressive firework display that was a big hit with the thousands of onlookers. The main festival area in the center of town was host to a multitude of food stalls - giant cauldrons of warming stew and local corn grilled over charcoal were some tasty snacks we enjoyed. There was also a Japanese tea garden constructed out of snow with kimono-clad women performing the tea ceremony.
It is a fantastic weekend that seems to get better and more impressive every year. There is good information available from the booths around the station and a fleet of shuttle buses make it easy to get around. Highly recommended.