Sounkyo Ice Festival
Sounkyo is a very popular place to visit during winter, not because of the fabulous skiing and snowboarding at Kurodake
, but for the Sounkyo Ice Festival (Sounkyo Onsen Hyobaku Matsuri). The ice festival attracts thousands of tourists who oooh and ahhhh at the ice formations. Rather than being like the Sapporo Snow Festival
that has ice sculptures, the Sounkyo Ice Festival has ice structures that are formed from river water into caverns and tunnels, with lots of spectacular stalactites. The structures vary from year to year, although the ice festival usually includes a small tubing run and sake tastings.
The Sounkyo Ice Festival is best visited in the evening when the structures are illuminated with various coloured lights. Some nights they also hold a short firework display. Dress really, really warmly because it’s usually incredibly cold!
The Sounkyo Ice Festival is held from January to early March.
Sounkyo is an onsen town, and another major reason for the influx of tourists.
Most of the Sounkyo hotels
and ryokan have hot spring baths (indoor and outdoor), and some allow non-guests to visit their onsen for a fee. Otherwise the public onsen, Kurodake no Yu, is located in the town center and connected with the Canyon Mall, offering indoor and outdoor baths.
Or if you don’t want to go the full monty, there is a foot bath in Sounkyo.
Other winter activities in Sounkyo include snowshoeing and ice climbing.