Japan’s popular Sapporo Snow Festival is called off amid latest coronavirus surge
Stars and Stripes January 19, 2022
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TOKYO – The Sapporo Snow Festival has been canceled for the second year running due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases across Japan, organizers announced Wednesday.
Before the pandemic, the annual event attracted large crowds of visitors from all over the world to view snow and ice sculptures in Sapporo’s Odori Park. The city on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, will hold an online event in lieu of the festival.
The sixth wave of COVID-19 in Japan gained strength Tuesday, adding 32,197 new cases nationwide and exceeding the previous peak reached six months ago, according to Japanese media.
The country’s coronavirus situation is expected to worsen, making it difficult to hold a large event with visitors gathering from throughout the country, snow festival organizers said on the event’s website.
Teams from the U.S. Navy participated in the festival for 36 years before the pandemic. In 2019, 11 sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa spent five days transforming a block of compacted snow into a frosty monument to the Navy that included a large eagle and an anchor.
The festival is a popular destination for troops and their families taking leave in Japan.
The Information, Tickets and Travel office at Yokota Air Base, home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, posted a cancellation notice on its Facebook page Wednesday for two three-day snow festival tours planned for next month and offered refunds.
Sapporo’s online snow festival will take place Feb. 5-28 on the event’s website, officials said. It will feature a photo contest, videos of crews making snow sculptures and an online shop.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.