Nagano: Niino Yuki Matsuri
[Jan. 14th - 15th (all night)]
When it snows heavily in this area, it is believed that the crops will grow very well in the coming year. This festival is to pray and wish for the snow, and to keep the bad spirits away by singing and dancing.
(Photo Copyright: ©Nagano Prefecture/©JNTO)
Wakayama: Otoh Matsuri
This is one of the two great fire festivals held in Japan, held at Kamikura Shrine in the evening. The highlight of the festival is when the participators (all men) hold fire-lit torches and run down the stairs. It is said to be very brave to participate in this event.
Hokkaido: Sapporo Yuki Matsuri
The Sapporo snow festival is the most well known winter festival in Japan. Enormous snow and ice carvings are built at the Odori Park in the city, and every year the carvings become more and more detailed. After dark, there are illuminations all around the park that light up the carvings.
(Photo Copyright: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO)
Kagoshima: Hatsu-uma Sai
In this unique festival, you will be able to see horses dressed up with ornaments, flowers, bells, and colorful ropes, tapping their feet to look like they are dancing along to the music played by locals. This event is to wish good health for the horses and good harvest for the coming year.
(Photo Copyright: ©K.P.V.B.)
Aichi: Hadaka Matsuri
This is called the "naked festival" (men only), and is held at Owari Okunitama Shrine. One man is selected as the shin-otoko, the only member who can drive away bad spirits. Thousands of the other men battle each other to try and touch this man of luck. All participants wear loincloths.
(Photo Copyright: ©Inazawa City)
Akita: Namahage Sedo Matsuri
A namahage is a messenger of the mountain gods, and traditionally warned children to work hard and not misbehave. In this "demon-mask festival," people dress in costumes and devil-like masks, holding sticks and rice harvesting tools. The festival will involve these namahage dancing around the fire, playing drums, etc. It is said that if you happen to pick up a piece of straw that dropped from their costume and tie it around your body, it will bring you good health.
Akita: Yokote Kamakura Matsuri
Small igloo-like huts called kamakura are created out of snow during this festival, and a small altar is built inside to worship the water gods. Children await inside the kamakura, and invite you in for rice cakes and amazake (sweet rice wine).
Saitama: Chichibu Yomatsuri
[Dec. 2nd and 3rd]
This night festival is one of the three largest festivals consisting of floats in Japan (the other two are the Gion and Takayama festivals). These floats are decorated with many lit up lanterns, and you can also enjoy fireworks, which is an uncommon sight in the wintertime.
(Photo Copyright: ©Saitama Prefectural Tourism Division/©JNTO)
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