The Zao Snow Monster Festival is a natural event that occurs every year in the months of January and February. A blend of heavy snowfall and cold Siberian winds come together to form monster-like figures, called Juhyo, over the Alpine trees.
How to See the Zao Snow Monsters
One way to view these natural phenomenon is to catch a ride on the Zao Ropeway Sancho Line to Jizo Sancho Station and get a birds-eye view of these towering snow monsters. Another way to enjoy them is to hit the slopes and ski among the frigid beasts.
At night you can relax at one of the area cafés and watch the light show. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening during the festival dates, the Zao snow monsters trees are brought to life with colored spotlights from 5pm to 9pm. Some resorts even offer night snowmobile tours to get a closer look at the illuminated Juhyo.
When to Go
The dates to see the Zao snow monsters varies and is dependent on the weather. However the main festival happens in the first weekend of February, with the remainder of the month being the peak viewing season.
The official dates for 2021 are December 26 to February 28. During this time the area resorts will be hosting events, lighting up the trees and conducting ski and snowmobile tours.
How to Get There
You can catch the JR Yamagata Shinkansen bullet train to Yamagata Station from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station (2.5 hours). Then take a bus to Zao Onsen Bus Terminal (45 minutes). From there, walk to the Zao Ropeway Sancho Line (15 minutes), and catch the ropeway to Jizo Sancho Station (17 minutes).