Visitors gather around a large snow sculpture called the snow 'Star Wars' produced by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Sapporo snow festival cooperation group during the 66th annual Sapporo Snow Festival on February 5, 2015. (AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi)
An annual winter festival began Monday in Sapporo with some 200 snow and ice sculptures on display, including one of the famous manga hero, "Astro Boy."
More than 2 million people from Japan and abroad are expected to visit the 69th Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, a weeklong event held in three venues in the capital of Japan's northernmost prefecture.
Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the birth of legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka, a sculpture of his iconic cartoon character Astro Boy is featured along with other ice exhibits such as Yakushiji Temple, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Nara. The temple sculpture will be used as a canvas for a projection mapping show every evening of the festival.
Also among the exhibits at the main Odori site are smaller statues of much-talked-about Nippon Ham Fighters rookie baseball player Kotaro Kiyomiya and popular comedienne Blouson Chiemi.
The Tsudome festival site, the festival's second largest display area, opened Thursday and has been drawing visitors to its large snow slide. The event at the Susukino site will begin Monday evening, showcasing frozen fish in ice displays.