3 famous summer festivals that convey summer in Hokkaido
In Japan, there are lots of festivals and events that are practiced as part of the summer traditions, such as fireworks festivals and Obon Dance festivals. There are lots of large-scale summer festivals in the popular tourist areas in Hokkaido! The "Hakodate Port Festival" is a lively Ika-Odori (squid dance) and fireworks display. The "Hokkai Soran Festival" is known for the “Soran Dance on Parade”, where powerful dances are performed along with the Soran Bushi, a folk song that represents Hokkaido. There are lots of festivals that can only be experienced in Hokkaido, such as the "Otaru Ushio Festival", which is well-known for the "Shio Nerikomi" where locals march down to the port. This time we will focus particularly on famous festivals and events in Hokkaido where traditional performing arts can be enjoyed.
※All information and prices listed are accurate as of March 2021
（1）The Demon Fireworks in the Valley of Hell（Noboribetsu）
（2）Hokkaido Shrine Annual Festival（Sapporo）
（3）Lake Shikotsu Lake Festival（Lake Shikotsu）
（1）Enjoy the Demon Fireworks in the Valley of Hell（Jigoku-no-Tani）
Jigokudani（Valley of Hell）is a spot that is well known at Noboribetsu Onsen, a hot spring resort situated in Noboribetsu City. The site where there is an explosion crater created by the volcanic activity of Mt. Hiyori, with a diameter of approximately 450m and 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 look of the bubbling and simmering water represents "hell where demons reside", and this is where the name of the spot comes from. The hot springs that gush from this area comes to 10,000 tonnes a day! This hot spring goes to the baths at inns and hotels.
There is a legend about a legendary demon called "Yukijin" that once lived in Jigokudani. The "Hell Valley Demon Fireworks", which are held from June to the end of July annually, is where this legendary demon, and the guardian deity of hot springs, "Yukijin", prays for the health and well-being of people. "Yakubarai no Mai（Apotropaic dance）" or “Purification Dance” is performed during the event. The demons are to launch hand-held fireworks, so that they can help to eradicate the misfortune of people. The sight of the Yukijin standing in a row and launching fireworks dynamically like an erupting volcano is incredibly impressive!
The performances of the demons are quite easy to see as they are performed on stairs, so you can sit down and watch the performance at the venue, but there is a seating spot limit at the venue, so it’s better to arrive earlier than the starting time at 8:30PM! Also, there are demon monuments dotted all over the hot spring area of Noboribetsu, including by the Noboribetsu East IC on the Hokkaido Expressway, so be sure to snap a photo! The actual monuments are pretty gigantic!
Be sure not to miss the popular tourist ranch "Noboribetsu Bear Park" where approximately 70 brown bears reside, 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 local dishes inspired by Jigokudani, such as "Enma Yakisoba" and the local beer "Oni Densetsu". 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.
※There are currently no plans for the festival to be held in 2021. Please check the official website for the latest information.
（2）Hokkaido Jingu（Shrine）Annual Festival
Hokkaido Jingu（Shrine）Annual Festival is also known as the "Sapporo Festival" and is held from June 14th to 16th annually. It is a festival with a history of over 100 years and is a festival loved by Sapporo locals. The highlight is the "portable shrine procession" that takes place on the 16th. Over 1,000 local people wear bright Heian period（794 - 1185）costumes reminiscent of picture scrolls from the Heian period, and they march through the city of Sapporo with nine floats, centred on four portable shrines enshrining the deity of Hokkaido Shrine.
Heading out from Hokkaido Shrine in the Maruyama area, the portable shrine and floats are unveiled while going through the centre 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!
Furthermore, speaking of Japanese summer festivals, stalls are also in business at the festivals! At Hokkaido Shrine, there were food stalls, street performances called "monkey shows (a monkey dances and does skits along to the sound of the monkey trainer’s voice and drums)," and a Japanese classical music event called "Gagaku." Additionally, there were stalls, haunted houses, and show tents in the other main venue, Nakajima Park, and it was bustling with people. Around Hokkaido Jingu, there is Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo City, and also Maruyama Park which is famous for its cherry blossoms during spring season, so it is recommended to take 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.
※It has yet to be decided whether the festival will be held in 2021. Please check the official website for the latest information.
（3）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 repeatedly.
The summer tradition at Lake Shikotsu is the " Lake Shikotsu Lake Festival", which is held in late June annually. This festival is held over two days, and the highlight of the festival is its fireworks display! On the night of the first day of the festival, approximately 400 fireworks are launched over the lake. The fireworks thrown into the lake are also quite a sight! The surface of the lake is colourfully illuminated by the fireworks and it is an incredibly magical sight! Additionally, there are plenty of fun events such as a big lottery, a fun mochi-maki tournament where hot spring accommodation tickets can be won, and a parade with drums and fife corps by students from Lake Shikotsu Elementary School.
If you would like to fully enjoy Lake Shikotsu, be sure not forget to try the "Underwater Pleasure Boat" where the clear water can be observed from the window of the seats located on the bottom of the boat, and 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 centre of Sapporo, it is about 1 hour 15 minutes by car.
※The holding of the festival in 2021 is currently undecided. Please check the official site for the latest information.
Refer to the following for more information on the areas, facilities mentioned in this article.
About Other events in Hokkaido
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