2020 Matsumoto Ice Sculpture Festival: Works in Progress

Sun, Feb 2, 2020

The temperature sure dropped since this afternoon. And that was good news for the artists! Ice sculptors from al over Japan as well as four other countries spent the dark hours cutting and carving blocks of ice, transforming them into pieces of frozen art. 

That the ice doesn’t start melting is only one reason the cold is so critical. These sculptors use chainsaws and hand drils and other power tools that create heat when used. Cold air is the only thing to combat the melting effects of using them.

The artists also need to piece together their sculptures with the blocks of ice they are working with. Water is used like mortar to hold the bricks of a wall together, and if that water can’t freeze the entire sculpture falls apart.

The cold was not enough, however, to dissuade the crowds from coming out. All up and down the southern moat people milled around, watching, taking pictures and commenting to each other as they took in this annual Matsumoto ritual. (Among them, it seemed, were writers for Visit Matsumoto, getting their best shots for blogs that will come ot in half a dozen languages.)

The process of ice sculpting is a slow one. Artists need blueprints and tape measures and plenty of patience. Yet after only an hour or so of walking slowly back and forth, watching them in their art, their progress – and the nature of the things they were making, became steadily, increasingly apparent.

Sunday promises to break sunny and grow seasonably mild. The crowds, then, are sure to come. Those who braved the cold to come down to the castle and watch blocks of ice being transformed into things of beauty will see, perhaps, a little bit more in the sculptures that will glisten in the sun, Matsumoto Castle and the northern Japanese alps creating a picture-perfect background. But for everyone who makes it down, the icy fruits of the sculptors’ labors will be a sweet sight that, sadly, won’t last long.

So come on down!