IF you have a chance to get out of Niseko for a few days, head up north to Japan’s largest national park, Daisetsuzan, and into the little village of Sounkyo for their magnificent Ice Festival. This festival is a man-made fantasy of frozen waterfalls, twisting grottos, ice caves and staircases, all of which are psychedelically lit up at night. The ice sculptures start glittering like a fairytale world when the sun sets.
During the month of January it gets so cold in Sounkyo that all lifts on adjacent Mt Kurodake have to shut down. Local ice sculptors take advantage of this by carving house-sized blocks of ice into works of art. The Ice Festival (Hyobakku Matsuri) is held every year from the end of January until mid March.