The Nozawa Fire Festival is one the three great fire festivals of Japan. This is the most popular and one of the most unique festivals during the winter season (although the naked man festival is pretty close). It is also the easiest to access for guests looking to add some Japanese festival excitement to their trip. Taking place on January 15th in Nozawa Onsen guests can stay at Nozawa or transport can be arranged from Hakuba and Myoko Kogen.
The festival consists of a huge wooden pavilion being constructed on the 13th of January which is then blessed by monks to imbue the pavilion with Dosojin (deities or gods to ward off trouble on the road – especially helpful for travellers).
The festival originally was to invoke a good harvest, good health and good fortune but now includes a good snow season too!
The Battle begins around 8:30 PM on the 15th of Jan with 25 year olds lighting torches from the sacred fire and charging the wooden pavilion which is defended by 42 years olds (Both ages considered unlucky). The defenders fight off the flames with nothing but their bare hands, and taunt the attackers with jeers and songs (much courage is gained from the free flowing Sake at the event). The festival finishes with the pavilion being set alight (after a hasty retreat by the defenders). This creates a magnificent bonfire that burns long into the night.
Nozawa Books out up to a year in advance se best to get in quick to book your accommodation or arrange transfer from a different resort.
Sapporo Ice Festival – 5-11 Feb
The Sapporo Ice Festival is one of the largest and best ice sculpture festivals in the world The sculptures can reach up to 15 meters in height and 25 meters wide. Day trips can be arranged for guests staying in Niseko or Furano and a stopover at the festival is included in the Hokkaido Explorer Tour.
The sculptors create near full size temples and dinosaurs (ice-o-saurs) among other incredible frozen works of art.
The Sapporo Ice Festival is incredibly popular and accommodation can be difficult to secure so if you would like to spend a few nights in Sapporo to take in the whole festival contact Whiteroom and we can add it to your trip!
Yanaizu Naked Man Festival – Nanokado Hadaka Matsuri January 7
For those who a looking to head to the unexplored resorts of Aizu in northern Honshu (the main island of Japan) and who are after not only after unique ski fields but a very unique festival than the Yanaizu Naked Man Festival is for you. The festival takes place on January 7th each year with the men stripping down to a Fundoshi (a Japanese loin cloth) and braving the freezing temperatures whilst running barefoot to the temple. Once there the men battle to climb a rope attached to the rafters. For those who make it they receive good luck and prosperity for the year to come.
As with many cultural festivals in Japan Sake is on hand in ample supply and aids the men in braving the freezing temperatures whilst also providing some extra courage when attempting to scale the rope to reach to top of the temple.
This like the all cultural festivals in Japan is a sight to behold and and will be a unique experience that you will remember for a lifetime.
Yainaizu is located just one hour from Nekoma and Honshino Resorts which provide some of the best powder in norther Honshu and you will be hard pressed to see another foreigner in sight. Interested in heading to Aizu – Whiteroom Tours can put together a private guided tour or custom package for you.
Zao Onsen Snowmonster Festival – First Weekend in February
The Snow Monsters in Zao Onsen are famous throughout Japan and during the Snow Monster Festival in Zao they are illuminated by an abundance of multi coloured lights. The festival includes a ski and snowboard jump show, a lively fire show and a huge fireworks display to top it off! The festival also includes some of the best and cutest local and nationally famous mascots (Japan has allot of mascots). These make for a cute and hilarious spectacle as they ski down the slopes to the delight of children and adults alike.
The main attractions are the naturally occurring snow monsters which cover the ski resort of Zao. These are illuminated of an evening to further enhance their beauty.
The Festival takes place right on the slopes of Zao Ski Resort so guests do not have to travel to enjoy the experience. To keep you warm there are a number of stalls selling street food, hot drinks and warm sake.
Zao is a relatively undiscovered ski resort and offers a true taste of Japan for travelers looking to get away from the popularity of Nozawa, Hakuba of Niseko. Whiteroom can help you book an excellent holiday to Zao Onsen.
Cherry Blossom Season – Hanami – Spring – Late March to April
The Cherry Blossoms are a thing of beauty and their fleeting existence at the beginning of spring each year only adds to their allure. The arrival of the cherry blossoms can be difficult to predict but they generally arrive in late March to mid-April. Guest looking to enjoy the sunny days and get into the backcountry in late March could be lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo or for those looking to add on an extended trip around Japan after your holiday then booking well in advance for Tokyo is key to ensuring you have a place to stay when the blossoms start to come out. Ueno Park in Tokyo offers one of the best places to see the Cherry Blossoms when in bloom or go for a row under the blossoms in Kagurazaka.
Why not go touring in mid March on our Niseko Backcountry Tour then head down to the south of the main island for the first Cherry Blossoms to come out. You can then make your way back up to Tokyo by train via Hiroshima, Osaka and Kyoto.
These are just a selection of the many festivals that are on offer during the winter season in Japan . Contact Whiteroom to see how you can add a stopover or a day trip to enjoy one of the festivals as part of your guided Japan Powder Tour or as part of a custom ski package.
See you in the Whiteroom!