A winter festival is an outdoor celebration that occurs in wintertime. Most winter carnivals involve traditional winter pursuits such as ice carving, snow carving, ice hockey, skating, skiing and dog sledding.
Japan is famous for its snow festivals, some enormous and monumental, others … Check out!
🔴 Chichibu, Saitama (early December)《Read more》
A two day festival in Chichibu City, Saitama near Tokyo. The peak of the festival is the racing of large lantern lit floats weighing 10-20 tons up a steep hill.
This can be dangerous for participants. The crowd goes wild to the sound of drums, flutes and shouts of “Horyai! Horyai!” (Hooray! Hooray!).
🔴 Tokyo (late December〜 early January)《Read more》
Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the year in Japan. Japanese people aren’t typically very religious. For many people, New Years day is the only time they visit their local shrine.
Shines are packed for hatsumode — it’s something to see. One possible place to do this is Tokyo’s famous Meiji Shrine.
🔴 Nara Prefecture (late in January)《Read more》
Japanese culture loves fire. There’s a single word in Japanese for burning a mountain — yamayaki. The annual Wakakusa Yamayaki involves setting Nara’s Mount Wakakusa-yama ablaze.
The festival is delayed by a week if it’s raining. It’s difficult to burn a mountain in the rain. After the yamayaki there’s a fireworks display.
🔴 Hokkaido (late January to Mid February)《Read more》
Lake Shikotsu is deep — it has an average depth of 265 meters (869 feet). Its depth prevents it from freezing in the winter. On the Northern island of Hokkaido, this is a novelty because it’s the only lake that doesn’t freeze.
The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is one of many ice and snow festivals in the region. Its snow and ice sculptures are unremarkable — but the festival has the best lighting of any winter festival in Japan.
🔴 Sapporo, Hokkaido (early February)《Read more》
The Sapporo Snow Festival is held during one week every February in Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo. It is one of Japan’s most popular winter events.
International teams compete to build the best snow and ice sculptures.
🔴 Asahikawa, Hokkaido (early February)《Read more》
The Asahikawa Winter Festival features the largest snow sculptures in Japan. It also features some incredible ice sculptures and thousands of snowmen.
It happens at the same time as the nearby Sapporo Snow Festival. The Asahikawa festival is much less crowded and almost as impressive.
🔴 Nagasaki prefecture (February)《Read more》
Begun as a celebration of the Chinese New Year primarily by the Chinese merchants resident in Nagasaki, the Lantern festival has become a staple winter event in the city, and the largest of its kind in all of Japan.
Over 15,000 colorful lanterns and large art objects adorn the entire city; from Chinatown and Minato Park, to Chuo Park, Meganebashi (Spectacles Bridge), Kanko-dori Arcade in Hamanomachi, and many other locations throughout the city.
Throughout the event period, colorful attractions such as Chinese circus performances and dragon dancing are held around the clock at various locations and stages around the city.
🔴 Aomori prefecture (February)《Read more》
Lake Towada is a large lake in Northern Japan on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures. The Lake Towada Yuki Matsuri takes place at the start of February near the town of Yasumiya on the south side of Lake Towada.
It features local food, igloo bars complete with kotatsu, performances on a ice stage and fireworks.
🔴 Iwate prefecture (February)《Read more》
A large snow festival that features snow statues up to 10 meters (32 feet) tall, igloos, horse sleigh rides, festival food, music and fireworks. Enjoy a lamb barbecue in a kamakura (Japanese igloo). There are many quiet onsen in the area.
🔴 Okayama prefecture (Mid February)《Read more》
The Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival) has gained much international attention. There’s a great deal of misinformation printed about the Hadaka Matsuri. If you decide to attend this festival it’s important to read up on the meaning of its ceremonies.
The Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama is just one of many naked festivals in Japan. However, the Okayama festival is the original. About 9,000 men (dressed in fundoshi loincloths) participate each year. One man is selected as the “naked man”.
This is a great honor. The naked man is blessed and his entire body is shaved. Then all 9,000 participants chase him through the streets trying to touch him. The festival originated in a time of plague in the region. It’s thought that touching the naked man frees you of disease and other evils (the naked man absorbs evil).
The naked man is always injured and usually ends up losing consciousness. After a while he is dressed and kicked out of town (to rid the town of the evil). The Hadaka Matsuri is a 500 year old tradition. If you decide to attend it’s important to have respect for the cultural aspects of the festival.
It’s also important to know that the festival is dangerous: participants have died. The yakuza participates. In the past yakuza have been blamed for violent incidents at the festival. The festival’s Japanese website advises participants not to punch, kick or choke each other.
🔴 Akita prefecture (Mid February)《Read more》
Akita Prefecture gets 409 cm (161 inches) of snow each year. The Kamakura Festival is a Japanese Igloo festival held in Yokote City, Akita. The igloos were originally built for gods who were thought to visit the region for New Years. These days, the igloos are used for drinking parties.
And one more festival in Akita prefecture☺️
Have you ever heard “Namahage” before? Namahage in traditional Japanese folklore is a demonlike being, portrayed by men wearing hefty ogre masks and traditional straw capes (mino) during a New Year’s ritual of the Oga Peninsula area of Akita Prefecture.
The frightfully dressed men, armed with deba knives (albeit wooden fakes or made of papier-mâché ) and toting a teoke ( “hand pail” made of wood), march in pairs or threes going door-to-door making rounds of people’s homes, admonishing children who may be guilty of laziness or bad behavior,
yelling phrases like “Are there any crybabies around?” or “Are naughty kids around?” in the pronunciation and accent of the local dialect.