SAPPORO, Japan -- The annual snow festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido's largest city, is expected to be canceled for the first time in its history, due to surging coronavirus transmissions.
Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto told reporters on Thursday that "it may be difficult to set up the venue and hold it."
This would be the first time for the annual snow festival, first held in 1950, to be canceled.
The city had already decided to scale down the event of 2021 by forgoing the construction of a famous snow statue. However, municipal officials are finding it difficult to rationalize holding an event that annually attracts upward of 2 million visitors.
Hokkaido has experienced rising numbers of infections since December.
The number of visitors this winter was to be limited to 2.02 million, down from last winter's 2.7 million.
"It is also necessary not to extinguish the fire of the Snow Festival," Mayor Akimoto said, adding that the city is exploring the possibility of holding the event online.
The committee will make a decision regarding a digital festival by the end of next week.
At last winter's event, multiple attendees and tourism workers were infected by the coronavirus.
COVID-19 has also caused Hokkaido to cancel other large-scale events, such as the Yosakoi Soran Festival and the Sapporo Summer Festival, seriously impacting the island's tourism industry.