Photo/IllutrationTourists enjoy ice sculptures in a bar set up in an ice dome in Shari, Hokkaido, on Jan. 30. (Toshiaki Miyanaga)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SHARI, Hokkaido--Braving sub-zero temperatures, visitors from Japan and abroad are wrapping up extra warm for the Shiretoko Drift Ice Festival, which kicked off on Jan. 30 here in this remote town on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

The event is staged at two main venues: the Blue Stage, on the massive Oronkoiwa rock illuminated near the Utoro fishing port; and the hilltop Green Stage, which features a giant ice dome equipped with a bar.

No observation fee is charged to watch the ice in the Blue Stage, while admission to the Green Stage is 500 yen ($4.40).

The festival was devised to spread knowledge of the seasonal phenomenon of drift ice covering the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as the peninsula’s ecosystem.

Foreign tourists, mainly from China, visited both “stages” as the festival coincides with the Chinese New Year holiday period. They were seen enjoying sampling the local cuisine and chatting around a bonfire.

The festival is held daily from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Feb. 28.