SAPPORO – The annual Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the nation’s largest winter events, attracted a record-high 2.74 million visitors thanks to good weather and an influx of Chinese vacationers during the Lunar New Year period, organizers said Tuesday.
The event, held since 1950, was staged from late last month through Monday in Hokkaido’s capital city, overlapping with this year’s weeklong Chinese New Year holidays, which began Feb. 4.
The record figure showed that both domestic and foreign visitors were “back completely” after a major earthquake in the prefecture last September caused declines in the number of tourists, according to the organizer.
On Tuesday, tourists were able to watch the demolition of the snow and ice sculptures. This year there were some 190 exhibits, including those featuring women’s world No. 1-ranked tennis player Naomi Osaka and Helsinki Cathedral, the latter commemorating the centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Finland.
“It must be so hard to bring these sculptures down as I can see how thick they are. I feel sad in a sense that they have to be destroyed,” said Shiho Ono, 30, from Kanagawa Prefecture, as she watched demolition work at the Odori site in the city center.
On Sept. 6 last year, Hokkaido was hit by a magnitude 6.7 quake that killed 42 people. The earthquake also caused a prefecture-wide blackout.