Few experiences encapsulate Japan’s embrace of both celebration and ceremony better than its festivals. While some of us may be familiar with Japan’s most famous festivals (such as Obon), fewer realize that Japan’s love of matsuri extends to every prefecture and season.
Indeed, some of Japan’s most amazing carnivals take place in the snowy offseason, warming the body and soul of participants with rich tradition and even richer delicacies. Wherever you venture on your winter trip to Japan, you’ll find fantastic festivities just waiting to be discovered.
Niigata: The charming city of Tokamachi is known across Japan for two reasons: as home to some of the most beautiful kimono designs in Japan and as the snowiest town on the main island of Honshu. The Tokamachi Snow Festival (February 15 – 17, 2020) celebrates the city’s wintry wonders: it features magnificent ice sculptures and a kimono fashion show on what is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest ice stage in the world. Alongside the 1,500-year history of traditional kimono, watch for the latest trends and cheer at the inauguration of the newly crowned kimono queen. In addition to awe-inspiring ice sculptures with magnificent illumination, this incredible snow carnival includes live concerts, Japanese folk dancing, fireworks and sweet warm sake.
JNTO NEWSLETTER - Jan. 2020 Yamagata: The Zao Snow Monster Festival is unique for featuring snow sculptures of a very different kind: rather than being man-made, the intriguing sculptures are entirely natural. Heavy snow completely cloaks the trees to form monstrous figures across the frozen mountainside. Those looking to walk among the monsters should do so with haste: they tend to melt by the end of February. The monsters are illuminated and dot the ski slopes of the famous Zao Onsen Ski Resort, offering a hiking and skiing experience unlike any other! On Saturday nights, skiers glide down the mountain by torchlight under a banner of fireworks. .
Akita: Akita is a winter wonderland full of quintessentially Japanese activities sure to warm the souls of locals and visitors alike. Make your wish come true (by writing it on a balloon!) at the Paper Balloon Festival of Kamihinokinai (February 10, 2020). Every year, a hundred intricately painted balloons featuring samurai, women and woodblock prints are lit up and released into the night. Along with their inscribed wishes, they float above the town with ethereal beauty. On the same date in Daisen City, the Kariwano
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The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)