Only During Winter! Seven Select Places and Festivals Around Japan to Enjoy Kamakura

There are places in Japan, particularly in northern Japan, that gets large amounts of snow. In those areas, there are many places and festivals where you can enjoy "kamakura," igloo-like houses made of snow. Here are seven recommended spots and festivals.

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1. Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

Yokote is in southern Akita and has the majestic Ou Mountains to the east. It is famous for the kamakura at the annual snow festival, and the Yokote yakisoba (pan-fried noodles), which is made with thick, straight noodles and topped with fried eggs. In particular, their kamakura , which are said to have a history of approximately 450 years, are famous around the country. During the festival, approximately 100 kamakura are built in the city and visitors can enjoy sweet sake and mochi (food made by steaming and pounding sticky rice) in the warmth of the kamakura lights. During the festival, visitors can experience making mini-kamakura in Komyoji Park. Please experience Japan's winter charm at the Yokote Snow Festival where you can experience great food, scenery, and even kamakura-making!

Festival schedule: February 15, 2017 - February 16, 2017 (usually held in mid-February)

2. Iwate Snow Festival

This is a winter festival held at Koiwai Farm, Japan's largest farm with an area of approximately 3,000ha (7,400 acres) in western Iwate. The festival will be held for the 50th time in 2017, and although it started with just 12 kamakuras, it has grown into a snow festival representative of the Tohoku region, with large snow sculptures built to different themes each year and a huge snow slide. The Kamakura Shokudo restaurant, where you can eat the Koiwai specialty, Jingisukan lamb barbecue in one of the kamakura that are lined up in a row, is also a special treat unique to this festival.

Festival schedule: February 4, 2017 - February 12, 2017 (usually held in early to mid-February)

3. Iiyama Kamakura Snow Hut Village

Shinanoheichi in Iida is located in northernmost Nagano and has heavy snowfall. Fifteen to twenty kamakura are built here every year. The local specialty, Noroshi Nabe hot pot, is served in the kamakura for a limited time. On the weekend, the kamakura are lit up at night, creating a beautiful fairy tale-like scene. On the second Saturday and Sunday of February, a Kamakura Matsuri festival is held with mochitsuki (pounding sticky rice to make mochi), kamakura-making demonstrations, and fireworks.

Festival schedule: January 27, 2017 - February 28, 2017 (usually held late January to late February)

Nagano Prefecture Sightseeing Organization

4. Kaida Kogen Kamakura Matsuri

Kiso-machi is in eastern Nagano. This festival is held in Kaida Kogen, an area that is often deep in snow. Huge kamakura and slides made of snow are made in the vast snowfield and visited by many. At night, ice candles are lit, creating a mystic atmosphere. A star viewing event is held for those who are interested.

Festival schedule: February 4, 2017 - (usually held in early February)

5. Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival

Yunishigawa Onsen, in Nikko National Park in northern Tochigi, holds a kamakura festival with a mystic scenery that has been recognized as a Japan Heritage Night View every year. During the day, visitors can enjoy barbecue in the large kamakura (reservations required) and in the evening, mini-kamakura lined up along a riverbed are lit with candles.

Festival schedule: January 28, 2017 - March 5, 2017 (usually held late January to early March)

6. Nakao Kamakura Matsuri

This festival is held in Nakao Kogen Highlands, in Shinhotaka Onsen in northern Gifu. It is an event held in the evenings, from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm. There is a kamakura bar, where visitors can enjoy alcohol at a counter inside a kamakura, as well as kamakura with open hearths. There are daily events events, such as mochitsuki. The event can be enjoyed indoors in the warm kamakura, or outdoors, viewing the starry skies. Either way, it is an event to relax and enjoy.

Festival schedule: February 1, 2017 - February 14, 2017 (held on the same days every year)

7. Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival

This festival is held in Hirosaki Castle Park, a national designated historic site, in Hirosaki in eastern Aomori that was once a bustling castle city of the Hirosaki feudal domain. It is a winter tradition where a variety of toro lanterns (erected as offerings to the gods or as traffic lights), large and small, and snow statues are built. In addition, approximately 300 small candlelit kamakura are built around the lotus pond, brightening up the northern nights.

Festival schedule: February 9, 2017 - February 12, 2017 (held in early February every year)

Kamakura, in which you can enjoy the cold Japanese winters, are both cute and mystic. Please find a kamakura that suits your style.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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Writer: masuda

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