The annual Sapporo Snow Festival opened in the capital of Hokkaido on Sunday without any novel coronavirus-related restrictions for the first time in four years.

The 74th festival, one of the country's biggest winter events, is being held at three venues in the city through Feb. 11, with about 190 snow and ice sculptures including some created by local residents.

The Sapporo Snow Festival, which opened on Feb. 4, 2024, features a large snow sculpture of characters from popular anime series Golden Kamuy. (Copyright Satoru Noda/Shueisha, Golden Kamuy Project)(Kyodo)

The main venue, Odori Park in the center of the city, features a 12-meter-tall snow sculpture featuring characters from the popular Golden Kamuy anime series that depicts the Ainu indigenous ethnic group of northern Japan. Food stands have returned at this year's festival following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'm coming to see this for the first time in four years. The sculptures are overwhelming not just because of their sheer size but their intricately carved details," said Sana Tsukamoto, 26, visiting from Kyoto.

The event attracted over 2 million people every year before the coronavirus pandemic, which forced organizers to hold the festival virtually in 2021 and 2022. It was held on a reduced scale last year.

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