For two decades now I've wanted to go to the Sapporo Snow Festival.
In 2019 I bought a plane ticket and arranged lodging for the 2020 festival. Then, well you know what happened then.
Ever since Japan has rolled up the red carpet, hung out the 'closed' sign, and shut its doors. This year they loosened the restrictions a bit, allowing tourist visas for expensive 'package tours'.
As a result the tourist industry in Japan has been pushing harder for the country to open up to visa-free tourists from the US and Europe. The government is responding, although with baby steps.
Currently you can get a 'package tour' that's mostly a formality, you can even arrange your own travel and lodging. But you still need to pay a travel company for a certificate and they take responsibility if you get sick with #COVID19
However, it's looking very much like Japan will return to full visa-free (for selected countries) travel by the end of the year. Which is great news!
Except there is, as yet, no word on whether Sapporo will hold the festival next February…
The event was held in 2020, but with restrictions and no foreign travel (mostly because airlines cancelled flights). It was cancelled in 2021, but planned for 2022. Then the 2022 event was cancelled at the last minute.
I've been unable to find *any* information about whether the 2023 Sapporo Snow Festival is moving forward or not.
Which sucks. Because you need to arrange lodging for the event six months in advance or your alternatives become either paying a huge premium for a Sapporo hotel or staying so far out from the city you have an hour-plus train ride each way – every day.
Also, since this is likely to be my *last* visit to Japan, I planned to extend my stay for at least two months.
My goal was to first explore Hokkaido a bit and then stay in northern Honshu (Aomori or Iwate province) after the festival and experience a Japan mountain winter. (Plus seek out performances of the unique musical heritage there.)
Then, with spring coming in, I plan to travel to the far south of Honshu for the cherry blossoms before returning home.
(Of course, my itinerary would include a few days in Tokyo, coming or going.)
But everything hinges on what happens in Sapporo.
Update: Japan is opening back up for visa-free travel October 11.
> Japan to reopen to independent travelers and lift daily arrival cap, Kishida says. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/09/23/national/kishida-japan-border-opening/
They are also providing coupons for lodging and restaurants for tourists and internal travellers.
Note: you still need to have a clean #COVID19 test or be vaccinated and double-boosted.
AND … I dug through the Japanese version of the Sapporo Snow Festival website with a translation service, and it looks like the 2023 festival is *on* at two of the three main sites.
Dates will be Saturday, February 4 to February 11, 2023.
Time to check finances and start planning? Or not – maybe I want to wait until next year, since the events are limited for 2023; no international snow sculpture contest, for example.
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