Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

AdmissionFree entry
Opening HoursEarly to mid February
5pm – 9pm
Location /
Getting There
Otaru Canal Area

Matt (1 of 1)-64The OTARU SNOW LIGHT PATH FESTIVAL is an annual festival that runs for 10 days in February and coincides with the SAPPORO WINTER FESTIVAL. The festival started in 1999 and has been running for 17 years. It enjoys around 500 000 visitors a year. Otaru is a small fishing village located about 30 minutes by train from Sapporo. It’s  a picturesque town year around, particularly its canal area that’s lined with old warehouses that have been renovated into restaurants and shops.

To get to Otaru simply take the train from Sapporo station. There are multiple trains per hour between Sapporo and Otaru along the JR Hakodate Main Line. The one way trip costs 640 yen and takes 30 minutes by rapid train or 45 minutes by local train. This by far the easiest and fastest way to get to the festival. For those with cars take the Sasson Highway. Its a pleasant drive and takes about 40 minutes, traffic depending. There is parking available down near the docks located a few blocks past the canal.

During the festival the city is decorated with lights, candle lit lanterns, and snow sculptures. The main venues are the historic OTARU CANAL and the former JAPAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS TEMIYA LINE. The canal is lined with candles and offers a great place to take photos and take in the sight of the warehouses reflected on the calm water. To get to the canal from the train station simply take the main exit and head directly straight for about 8 blocks.  Just keep following the incline down to the small canal.

The former TEMIYA RAILWAY LINE SITE is a street cutting across the city. The service of the line was terminated finishing its role in 1985, but the track remains as a precious relic of railway. During the winter the old tracks are buried beneath the snow and the street is home to various snow sculptures and lanterns hanging from the bare branches of the trees.  The view is quite stunning as the thousands of candles fade away into the distance. The site is located about halfway between the canal and OTARU train station. Its not hard to miss as there are throngs of people wandering down this old pathway.

Lanterns illuminating the street

This is a festival well worth a look. It offers nice views for the families and romantic walks for couples. There are plenty of photo opportunities and there are great sushi and seafood restaurants around the canal and its surrounding streets. The prime time is just after sunset as the volunteers tirelessly light the thousands of candles throughout the city of OTARU. Though not part of the festival, the docks are also a nice place to have a look and to take a break from the large crowds, especially in the evening. A quieter part of the town, its nice to have a wander along the calm ocean waters and look at the various fishing vessels and warehouses.

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Hokkaido Guide contributor and editor. Keen photographer with a love of travel, the great outdoors and all things Hokkaido, Japan. Matt Holloway is a professional photographer and holds exhibitions around Sapporo, Hokkaido and Sydney Australia.