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Visiting Hokkaido in the Summer? Attend These 3 Festivals

Summer festivals are part of Japan’s traditions during the season.


Festivals are part of summer traditions in Japan. Hokkaido has plenty of large-scale summer festivals in its tourist areas: Hakodate Port Festival involves a lively Ika-Odori (squid dance) and fireworks display. Hokkai Soran Festival is known for its Soran Dance on Parade, powerful dances performed along with the Soran Bushi, a folk song that represents Hokkaido. In the Otaru Ushio Festival, revelers participate in Shio Nerikomi, a dancing parade that goes around the city. 


This time, we focus particularly on three Hokkaido festivals and events that showcase traditional performing arts. 

Demon Fireworks in the Valley of Hell(Jigoku-no-Tani) 


The Valley of Hell was the result of the volcanic eruption of Mt. Hiyori.


Jigokudani(Valley of Hell)is a spot that is well known at Noboribetsu Onsen, a hot spring resort situated in Noboribetsu City. The site is where the volcanic explosion of Mt. Hiyori created a crater with a diameter of approximately 450 meters and a vast area of about 11 hectares. It is said to be the hot spring source of Noboribetsu Onsen. There are lots of fumaroles and gushing points, and the bubbling, simmering water is supposed to represent hell where demons reside, hence its name. About 10,000 tonnes of hot springs gush daily from this area, supplying water to the baths at inns and hotels.


Festival participants dressed as Yukijin (demon) set off fireworks at the Valley of Hell to ward off evil spirits and protect people’s health and well-being.


Legend has it that Yukijin (demon) lived in Jigokudani, protecting people’s health and well-being against evil spirits. The guardians of the hot springs continue to do so through fireworks set off annually in June and July. Aside from a Yakubarai no Mai (exorcism) or purification dance, Yukijin launch hand-held fireworks to help eradicate the misfortune of people. It’s a scene reminiscent of an erupting volcano. 


The performances of the demons are held on stairs, so you can sit down and watch at the venue. But there is a seating spot limit, so make sure you arrive well before the show at 8:30 p.m. Also, don’t forget to take pictures of the demon monuments dotted all over the hot spring area of Noboribetsu, including by the Noboribetsu East IC on the Hokkaido Expressway.


Yukijin (demon) statues are found all over the Noboribetsu Onsen grounds.


While at Hell Valley, don’t miss the popular tourist ranch Noboribetsu Bear Park, where approximately 70 brown bears reside; and as well as the local cuisine spot Onsen Ichiba, where seasonal seafood can be enjoyed at reasonable prices. It's fun as there are lots of dishes inspired by Jigokudani. Enma Yakisoba is a noodle dish with spicy sauce, and Oni Densetsu is the local beer. 


It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Sapporo to Noboribetsu by limited express train on the JR Hakodate Main Line. The venue, Jigokudani Observatory, is about 15 minutes via bus from Noboribetsu Station, and a short walk from Daiichi Takimoto-mae Bus Stop.


Please check the official website for the latest schedules and information.


Hokkaido Jingu Shrine Festival


Dressed in Heian period costumes, locals parade floats and portable shrines through Sapporo City in the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine Festival.


Hokkaido Jingu Shrine Festival is also known as the Sapporo Festival and is held from June 14 to 16 annually. A festival with a history of over 100 years, it is highlighted by a portable shrine procession that takes place on the 16th. Over 1,000 locals wear bright costumes from the Heian period(794 - 1185) and march through the city of Sapporo with eight floats, centered on four portable shrines enshrining the deity of Hokkaido Shrine.


Heading out from Hokkaido Shrine in the Maruyama area, the portable shrines and floats are unveiled as they approach the center of Sapporo City. When I saw the festival, I was able to see the ritual prayers and offering dances around the Mitsukoshi and PARCO department stores near Odori Park!


Stalls are bustling at this festival! At Hokkaido Shrine, there were food stalls, street performances like monkey shows (where a monkey dances and does skits along to the sound of the trainer’s voice and drums), and a Japanese classical music event called Gagaku. Additionally, there were haunted houses and show tents in the other main venue, Nakajima Park, and as expected, it was filled with people. 


Around Hokkaido Jingu, there is Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo City, and Maruyama Park, which is famous for its cherry blossoms during spring. We recommend taking a walk around the commonly visited city spots while enjoying the summer festival. 


To get there, take the Namboku Line from JR Sapporo Station to Odori Subway Station. Then, change to the Tozai Line, get off at Maruyama Koen Subway Station, and walk for approximately 15 minutes. Or, it takes about 15 minutes by taxi from Sapporo Station.


Please check the official website for the latest schedules and information. 


Lake Shikotsu Lake Festival


Revelers watch fireworks light up the night sky at Lake Shikotsu Lake Festival.


Lake Shikotsu in Chitose City is a crater lake formed by the collection of water in a crater created by the eruption of Shikotsu Volcano about 40,000 years ago. It is known for its excellent water quality and clearness. In the lake water quality ranking announced by the Ministry of the Environment, it has been chosen as the best water in Japan on multiple occasions. 


The water at Lake Shikotsu has been chosen as the best water in Japan multiple times.


The summer tradition at Lake Shikotsu is the Lake Shikotsu Lake Festival, held in late June annually. This festival is held over two days, and the highlight of the festival is its fireworks display. On the first night of the festival, approximately 400 fireworks are launched over the lake. This illuminates the lake with colors and it is an incredibly magical view! 


Additionally, there are plenty of fun events such as a big lottery, a mochi-maki tournament where hot spring accommodations can be won, and a parade with drums and fife corps by students from Lake Shikotsu Elementary School.


To fully enjoy Lake Shikotsu, try the Underwater Pleasure Boat, where the lake’s clear water can be appreciated from the windows located on the bottom of the boat. And don’t forget to order the famous dish salt grilled kokanee!


To get there from New Chitose Airport, take a direct bus bound for Lake Shikotsu (via JR Chitose Station) and ride for about 50 minutes, and get off at the final stop, Lake Shikotsu. Or, from the center of Sapporo, it is about 1 hour 15 minutes by car.


Please check the official website for the latest schedules and information. 

Refer to the following for more information on the areas, facilities mentioned in this article.



About Other events in Hokkaido

"Fun Times in Winter Night! The Famous Illuminations in Hokkaido and Tohoku Region
4 Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots not to be Missed in Hokkaido


About Hokkaido Travel Passes

Visit all the popular sites in Hokkaido! Convenient for all - The Hokkaido Rail Pass
A Prefect Pass to get around Hokkaido and Tohoku!The JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass


Hokkaido Jingu
Chitose City and Lake Shikotsu Sightseeing Boat


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