ice sculptures by Junichi Nakamura

Junichi Nakamura stands next to his unfinished 'Attacking Claws' ice sculpture
Junichi Nakamura stands next to his "Attacking Claws" ice sculpture
Japanese artist Junichi Nakamura is widely regarded as one of the best ice sculptors in the world. He has taken the gold medal at two Olympic ice carving competitions and has won numerous titles at the World Ice Art Championships and even traveled to Chicago in 2000 to win the U.S. national championship. The photos below were taken at competitions in Alaska, Canada, and Utah. In almost every case, Junichi had teammates or a helper that also worked on the sculpture and they’ve been credited whenever possible.

(Here's the secrets blog entry that introduces this gallery.)

"Let It Be," the amazing bird cage ice sculpture, from the 2011 World Ice Art Championships (WIAC) in Fairbanks, Alaska; multi-block realistic event; 1st place; carved by Junichi, Shinichi Sawamura, Yoshinori Mabuchi, & Koji Murakami. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

"It's Mine," ice sculpture of a great hornbill on a branch, from the 2011 WIAC; single block realistic event; 1st place; carved by Junichi and Ben Rand. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

The amazing porcupine from "Prickly Reception" featured individually carved two-toned spines that were made by freezing together alternating strips of clear and cloudy ice and then cutting the spines out with a bandsaw. Photo courtesy of Victor Dagatan.

"Prickly Reception," a big cat stalking a porcupine, first place 2012 multi-block competition WIAC, Fairbanks Alaska; by Junichi Nakamura, Shinichi Sawamura, Satoru Mahoe, & Takahiro Sueyoshi. Photo courtesy of Victor Dagatan

"Beach Walker" (a fiddler crab) by Junichi and Steve Brice; 1st place realistic single block competition 2006 WIAC. This highly unusual sculpture is structurally daring and meticulously detailed. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

"White Fang," depicting a pack of wolves attacking a caribou, from the 2009 WIAC in Fairbanks; multi-block realistic event; 1st place; carved by Junichi, Shinichi Sawamura, Fukumi Furukawa, & Takao Waki. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

"Playing with Hair" was Junichi's entry in an unusual competition held before the WIAC in conjunction with the U.S. National Championships in 2010. Junichi earned first place with this single block ice sculpture. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

"Attacking Claws," a lioness attacking a wildebeest, from the 2010 WIAC; 2nd place, realistic multi-block competition, by Junichi, Shinichi Sawamura, Kyoichi Yoshikawa, & Kareki Koji. This daring ice sculpture was partly hollow so that it wouldn't collapse (and actually, it did collapse later). Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

Keep in mind that these are not your typical saw-it-at-a-wedding ice sculptures. Most of them are truly massive, and many required heavy equipment to assemble. In some of the photos, you can get an idea of the scale because a person stands next to the sculptures or Junichi is pictured working on one.

"Blue Ring Octopus" was carved by Junichi and Heather Brice for the single block realistic competition at the 2010 WIAC. It earned first place. Photo courtesy of Karen Clautice.

“King of the Jungle”; 2nd place Realistic Multi-block; 2002 IceArt Championships. Junichi Nakamura, Shinichi Sawamura, Aaron Costic, & Steve Brice. Photo by Patrick Endres.

“Pandora's Dance”; 4th place Realistic Multi-block; 2000 IceArt Championships. Junichi, Hiroshi Takahashi, Dan Rebholz, Jeff Bleier. Look closely at the photo; that's Junichi wearing his trademark earmuff standing next to the sculpture. Photo by Patrick Endres.

"Fear of the Sword"; 2nd place, Multi-block Realistic, 1998 IceArt Championships. By Junichi Nakamura, Scott Rella, Peter Slavin, & Hiroshi Takahashi. And yes, that's a person standing at the base of the sculpture looking up at it. Photo by Patrick Endres.

Junichi has a well-deserved reputation for pushing the structural limits of ice. His ice sculptures are frequently so daring that a crowd will gather at the end of the competition time limit, just to see if his sculpture will stay up when he cuts the final support struts. The drama is all too real you see, because sometimes, the sculpture collapses!

“Graceful Predator”; 1st place Realistic Single block; 2003 IceArt Championships. By Junichi Nakamura & Tajana Raukar. Photo by Patrick Endres.

“Ancestral Spirit”; 2nd place Realistic Multi-block; 2004 IceArt Championships. Junichi, Shinichi Sawamura, Greg Butauski, & Dawson List. Photo by Patrick Endres.

Cutting weld inlets for “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi uses a V-chisel to cut channels in the upper weld surface to make it easier to get water into the weld. This is necessary because of the cold Alaska temperatures and the huge ice blocks.

Template layout for “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi and Shinichi Sawamura stand over the design template which depicts a huge eagle on the arm of a Native American warrior holding a spear.

Many of the photos in this gallery were taken by expert photographer Patrick Endres at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Patrick has hundreds more ice sculpture photos and thousands of other images from Alaska at his site at Many thanks also go to Ice Alaska volunteer Karen Clautice, who has also been very helpful in putting together this gallery by allowing the use of her fantastic photos!

Adding the eagle to “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi directs the lift operator from atop the highest scaffolding. All of the multi-block ice sculptures are assembled with the help of the talented boom lift operators of Ice Alaska.

Touching up “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi works on small details of the figure from the back side scaffolding. The scaffolding can be treacherous as it's often covered with a layer of ice.

Weedburner torch: Junichi uses a large torch to quickly “glass” part of “Ancestral Spirit.” Photo: Patrick Endres, Alaska Photo Graphics

Detailing “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi and Dawson List work on various smaller details of the huge ice sculpture. Photo by Patrick Endres

Smaller torch: Junichi works on smaller details of “Ancestral Spirit” with a handheld propane torch. All of Junichi's ice sculptures feature delicate detailing all and careful surface texturing.

Titling “Ancestral Spirit”: Junichi has just completed freehand carving of the snow filled sculpture title into the base of the piece, one of his signature elements in his earlier sculptures in Fairbanks.

“Soldier”; 1st place, 1996, Ice Magic, Banff, Alberta, Canada. Carved from 15 300 lb. blocks with Yasuo Mizuuchi

2002 Olympic event: Junichi works on his entry at the 2002 Olympic ice carving event in Provo, Utah.

Many of these photos are also posted elsewhere on ice carving secrets, but this gallery collects most of Junichi’s photos in one place. Junichi has given permission for his sculptures and likeness to be posted on this site and they may not be reproduced without permission. For many more photos of Junichi’s work, purchase his book “Visions of the Master” from Ice Crafters ($98, but totally worth it).

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