On the northern island of Hokkaido, fierce winter weather blankets everything in white. The Sounkyo Hyobaku Matsuri, or Ice Waterfall Festival, rewards those who venture off the beaten path and brave the cold climate. The small town of Kamikawa, where the festival takes place, lies on the edge of Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest national park in Japan, which is worthy of a visit on its own.
Sounkyo Hyobaku Matsuri features an otherworldly landscape of frozen waterfalls, glowing ice caves and igloos to explore. Just come prepared, as temps often plummet to -20C. After experiencing this winter wonderland, stay in one of the local hotels across the street, many of which come equipped with a natural onsen (hot springs). You can thank us for that tip later.
Running from January to March, Sounkyo Hyobaku has one of the longest running periods of any festival in Japan, so it’s an easy link-up with other winter festivals in the region.