• Kyodo

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The annual Sapporo Snow Festival opened to the public here Wednesday with 308 ice and snow sculptures of various sizes on display.

Among the sculptures at the 54th festival, which runs through Tuesday, is one that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Japan of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships from the United States.

Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) is known as the U.S. naval officer who opened diplomatic and trade relations with Japan on behalf of the U.S., effectively ending more than 200 years of Japanese isolation.

At the Odori Park site, the main venue of the festival, stands the 15-meter-high Snow Edo Castle, built to mark the 400 years since the start of the Edo Period in 1603. The two other festival sites are Makomanai and Susukino.

Among the sculptures made by residents are those depicting popular K-1 fighter Bob Sapp and Japanese animation character Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy), organizers said.

Participation in the annual festival is becoming more elaborate, as visitors are invited to help make 10,000 snowmen with an eye toward earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The festival began in 1950 when a group of high school students made six snow statues in Odori Park. Five years later, the Self-Defense Forces joined in and built the first large-scale snow statues for which the Snow Festival is known.

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