when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Thursday, February 14, 2013

winter festivals(2)

Hyotenka no Mori(氷点下の森, The Subzero Forest)Jan.1-March 31
Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture

The owner of the isolated mountain inn, Akigami Onsen Ryokan(秋神温泉旅館), started this annual light-up event.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

2013 Shikaribetsu-ko Kotan(2013 しかりべつ湖コタン)
Jan.26-March 31
Lake Shikaribetsu, Hokkaido

There are open-air baths and an ice bar on the lake. Kotan means "god of the wind" in the Ainu language. Ainu are aborigines who lived mainly in Hokkaido and Sakhalin.

open-air baths on Lake Shikaribetsu
photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Tokachigawa Hakucho(Swan) Festival Sairinka(十勝川白鳥まつり 彩凛詩)
Tokachigawa Onsen(Tokachigawa hot spring), Otofuke-cho, Hokkaido

From early November to mid April, many swans pass the winter in the Tokachi River near the hot spring.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

38th Sounkyo Hyobaku (Ice Waterfall) Festival(第38回層雲峡温泉氷瀑まつり)
Jan.19-March 31
Sounkyo Onsen(Sounkyo hot spring), Kamikawa-cho, Hokkaido

Ice festivals in the Okuhida Hot Spring Villages(奥飛騨温泉郷), Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture  (Japanese version only)

(1)  Aodaru(blue ice pillars) Light Up
  late Dec.,2012-mid March, 2013
      Fukuchi Onsen(福地温泉)


(2)  Hirayu Otaki Keppyo Matsuri(平湯大滝結氷まつり)
      Hirayuotaki Fall(平湯大滝), Hirayu Onsen(平湯温泉)

Hirayuotaki Fall

(3) Taruma Kanekori Light Up(Taruma Falls Light Up)
      Dec.20, 2012-Feb.28, 2013
     Taruma-no-taki(Taruma Falls), Shinhirayu Onsen(新平湯温泉)

Taruma Kanekori Light Up

Taruma Kanekori Light Up

Visitors watch drifting snow on the train.

Drifting snow experience tours(地吹雪ツアー)
Kanagi-machi, Goshogawara City, Aomori Prefecture

So far about 10,000 visitors including many Asian tourists from snowless countries took part in the tour. They walk through drifting snow and ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

Yokote Kamakura Festival(横手の雪まつり(かまくら))
Yokote City, Akita Prefecture

The festival dates back 400 years. German architect Bruno Taut(1880-1938) visited Yokote in 1936 and described his impressive experience at the festival in his book "A Rediscovery of Japan".

Nango Yukihotaru Festival(南郷雪蛍まつり)
Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

Tokamachi Snow Festival(十日町雪祭り)
Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture

Kadare! Yukiguni Taiken
(かだれ!雪国体験,  Let's talk(or join us)! experiences in the snow country)
Shichinohe-machi, Aomori Prefecture

Participators can enjoy many outdoor and indoor activities such as making and eating soba noodles, making snow lanterns, snow rafting, snow trekking, sleighing, rice-cake making, dyeing with vegetables, handheld fireworks, an exchange party with local people, and a hot spring.
Those wishing to visit need to make reservations. This event was closed to new entries.

Niogataki Falls Ice Festival(乳穂ヶ滝氷祭, Nioga-taki Kori Matsuri)
Nishimeya Village, Aomori Prefecture

Fudo-son (Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings)) is enshrined in a cave behind the falls. The outcome of the year's harvest is divined by watching the diameter and shape of the frozen falls. Visitors can also enjoy a big kamakura, a snow slide.

Hachinohe Enburi Festival(八戸えんぶり)
Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

People in Hachinohe feel that long and hard winter is nearing an end when the festival ends.

More than 30 enburi groups participate in this festival.

On the 17th, all the groups dedicate their enburi dance to Chojayama Shinra Jinja Shrine(長者山新羅神社).
After all the groups parade through the streets and perform their enburi dances, they worship at Miyagi Jinja Shrine(三八城神社).

After that, enburi performers dance in front of shops and homes in the city until 8 or 9 p.m.. It's called Kadozuke. The performers accept gratuities.

One of the designated seven groups perform in the presence of the Hachinohe mayor at the square in front of the Hachinohe City Hall. In ancient times, enburi groups performed in the castle.

On the 17th and 18th, enburi dance is performed at the Hachinohe City Public Hall.
At the square in front of the Hachinohe City Hall, enburi dance is performed in the daytime on the 19th and 20th and in the night from the 17th to 20th.

Oniwa Enburi

Oniwa Enburi is performed at Kojo-kaku(更上閣). In ancient times, wealthy people had enburi groups perform at their homes. Oniwa Enburi was revived so that visitors can sense a taste of the past.
Kojo-kaku was build as a Japanese-style wooden residence in 1897 and was designated 'Country Registration Tangible Cultural Properties' in 2003.

There are two types of enburi performances: "Naga Enburi" and "Dosai Enburi".

Naga Enburi
Naga Enburi features slow movements. Its performers wear headdresses called eboshi. The leading performer wear a headdress with a red flower. They hold long handle spades in their hands.

Dosai Enburi is quick in movement. Its performers wear eboshi with long fringes of five different colors. They hold sticks with metal ornaments on its tip in their hands.

Dosai Enburi

The site of Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities offers the videos of enburi.

Momoishi Enburi(百石えんぶり)
Oirase-cho, Aomori Prefecture

It is said that Momoishi Dosai Enburi came from Kiriyanai(切谷内) in Gonohe-machi(五戸町) to Momoishi about 180 years ago. Enburi performers dedicate their dance to Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine(若宮八幡宮). After that they parade through the streets, perform their dances in front of shops and homes and accept gratuities.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Shimokawa Ice Candle Museum
Shimokawa-cho, Hokkaido

This is a ice festival. Snow candled are decorated everywhere in the city.

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

photo by 北海道無料写真素材集 Do Photo

Sawada Candle Festival(沢田ろうそくまつり)
Sawada Shinmeigu Shrine, Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture

Candles are lighted at Iwaya-do(岩谷堂) in Sawada Shinmeigu Shrine(沢田神明宮).
On the following day, the harvest outcome and weather of the year is divined by watching wax dripped from from the candles.


Iwaya-do is a small shrine made in a depression of a rock.
Local people and visitos can also light candles at the shrine.

Gassan Candlelight Snow Inns Festival (雪旅籠の灯り, Yukihatago no Akari)
Feb.22-March 3
Gassan-shizu Onsen(月山志津温泉), Nishikawa-machi, Yamagata Prefecture (Japanese version only)

Gassan-shizu hot spring area is located on the route to Mount Gassan that has been the subject of mountain worship from ancient times. The old town scenery of the area is reproduced by use of heavy snow. The area has snow six meters deep in winter. Unlike other snow festivals, buildings are made by carving out of snow on the ground.  Visitos can enjoy four snow inns, an ice bar, a kamakura, and an snow slide. They can enter the inns in which some snow statues, the tables and chairs are carved.


  1. I wish I could see these snow inns with my own eyes, Ichinen, it must be a very special experience to be in such a building. The lights make it very special.
    In Japan are such beautiful events and festivals to be admired. Thank you for sharing and telling us about this all.
    Greetings, Ilona

    1. These snow inns are designed by professors and students at Tohoku University of Art and Design, and the students are also engaged on the production of the inns.