The Hokkaido Shrine Festival (Sapporo Festival)

WhereHokkaido Shrine
Nakajima Park
DatesJune 14th - June 17th
Location /
Getting There
Hokkaido Shrine - take the subway to Maruyama station, it's a 10 minute walk to Hokkaido Shrine. The shrine is located in Maruyama park.

Nakajima park - take the subway to Nakajima park station. Festival is located there.

The Hokkaido Shrine Festival, also called the Sapporo Festival, has a history going back over a century. It is also one of the biggest festivals in Hokkaido. The festival runs from the 14th to the 16th of June. Stalls, entertainment and other attractions are set up through Nakajima park for those 3 days. Traditional dedication ceremonies are held at the shrine in Maruyama park, where many festival stalls are also set up. On the final day on the 16th, a huge parade sets out from Hokkaido Shrine and makes its way into the centre of Sapporo. The procession involves thousands of people dressed in colorful Heian period costumes. They wind their way through the city, so it is not hard to miss. Just follow the sound of the taiko drums. This really is a must see, a great Japanese experience!

Sapporo festivalNakaijima park is a popular place to head to for this festival.  Many people dress up in their yukatas (light cotton kimonos) and head to the park. The festival here opens midday and closes by 10pm. There a rows and rows of stalls, selling local food, beer, drinks, sweets and even goldfish. Try your luck at the many game stalls set up, and try and win a toy or trinket. At the centre of the park, are a couple of fun ghost houses that you can enter. There is also a death defying motorbike event which is pretty interesting. Watch as a motorcyclist rides the walls of small circular room, blindfolded. There are also some jumping castles for the kids, and a magic house. Be warned though! In the evening, there are thousands upon thousands of people, and walking through the stalls can take a lot of time! It can get very crowded!

Sapporo festivalThe highlight of the 3 day festival comes on the last day. Thousands of people in full costume leave in a long procession from Hokkaido Shrine. With drums, piccolos, and other instruments, this parade heads into the centre of Sapporo and makes its way back. The floats and portable shrines leave from Hokkaido shrine at around 8 am. It is a full day affair. The procession usually arrives into central Sapporo around early afternoon. Along with the procession there are 4 large mikoshi portable shrines that are carried by hundreds of locals, and 8 floats. The costumes are Heian period (794 to 1185 ad) and are very colorful and beautiful. Thousands of onlookers line the street and there are plenty of cameras around to capture this great spectacle. Definitely, mark this one down on your schedule if you are in and around Sapporo! 

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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.