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Rediscover the charm of winter in Japan at the Tohoku’s Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals!


Snow activities are popular for a winter trip to Japan. If you would like to fully enjoy the snow, we recommend going to a "Snow Festival", an event unique to Japan!

Snow festivals are held across Japan in winter, and if you have chance to visit Japan during winter in near future, why not head to the Tohoku area where there is a lot of snowfall! The snowfall season in the Tohoku region is usually from November to February. In particular, the "Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals" that are held in each prefecture of Tohoku region around February are the winter traditions of Tohoku. In this article, we will introduce three of the Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals that we particularly recommend!
※All information is accurate as of December 2020.

 

(1)Hachinohe Enburi(Aomori)
(2)Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival(Aomori)
(3)The Namahage Torch Festival(Akita)

 

What are the Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals?

 

Michinoku is the old name of the current Tohoku region and these five great snow festivals represent the region’s long history of culture and tradition. The Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals are:
Hachinohe Enburi (Hachinohe City, Aomori), 
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival (Hirosaki City, Aomori), 
Iwate Snow Festival (Shizukui Town, Iwate), 
Namahage Shiba Torch Festival (Oka City, Akita) and 
Yokote Kamakura (Yokote City, Akita).

 

(1)Hachinohe Enburi - an important intangible folk culture asset

Hachinohe Enburi is a festival held in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture from February 17th - 20th annually. Its origin is ancient, and it is said that it was first held around 800 years ago.

"Enburi" is a dance to pray for a good harvest. There are two types, "Nagaenburi", where people dance slowly and gracefully while singing, and "Dosaienburi", which has a fast tempo and is energetic.
There are a number of highlights of Hachinohe Enburi. First, "Issei Zuri" is held on the first day of the festival. The scenery of over 20 dancers gathering in the centre of Hachinohe and dancing simultaneously is quite a sight, and even in the freezing temperatures of February, you are sure to be overwhelmed by the heat and even your feelings may heat up⁉


Another must-see is the "Bonfire Enburi" that is held from 6:00pm during the event. A bonfire is lit in the plaza in front of Hachinohe City Hall, and the dancers dance while being illuminated by light of the bonfire, and the music that echoes in the night sky feels a touch different from the music heard during the day. Also, there is even a "Public Enburi" that can be enjoyed up close in the daytime, and you can also enjoy looking at the gorgeous costumes such as the Eboshi, which is shaped like the head of a horse.
If you feel cold while watching the festival, warm yourself up with the Hachinohe specialty, rice cracker soup!

Date: February 17th - February 20th, 2021 
Venue: Residents’ Plaza in front of the city hall, Hachinohe city centre etc. 
Access: 10 minutes on foot from "Hon-Hachinohe Station" on the JR Hachinohe Line
※The details of the event are subject to change as to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.


(2)A winter wonderland at Hirosaki Park!
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival 


The Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival is famous not only as one of the Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals, but also as one of the ‘Four Hirosaki Great Snow Festivals’.

The event venue is Hirosaki Park, which is also known as a famous place for viewing cherry blossoms during spring season. There are around 150 snow lanterns set up in the venue as well as snow sculptures of various sizes.
Another one of the main attractions are the mini kamakura made of snow. Around 300 kamakura are lined up, and the sight of candle lights glittering in the dark are just as beautiful. Also, the castle tower, old pine trees, cherry trees, etc. are illuminated, and fireworks dye the night sky, creating a magical view of the world.

Large slides are installed for children and stalls are lined up, so the event can be enjoyed from noon as well as with illuminations at night.

 

Date: February 10th - February 14th, 2021 
Venue: Hirosaki Park 
Access: About 10 minutes by car from Hirosaki Station, or take the city circular bus and get off at the bus stop "Shiyakusho-mae", then walk for about 4 minutes
※The details of the event are subject to change as to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.


(3)The Big Festival in Oga- The Namahage Torch Festival

The Namahage Torch Festival is a festival held at Shinzan Shrine in Kitaura, Oga City, Akita Prefecture. It is held over three days on the second Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights in February annually.

Namahage is a visiting deity that arrives at the turning point of the year (a deity who is said to visit the human world once a year at the same time every year). He wears a mask, a straw costume, straw knives, and has a wooden pointed carver in his hand.

The festival is held at the Kagura hall and from shrine approach to the precincts of Shinzan Shrine. The climax is the Chinkamasai, a hot spring dance, the Japanese percussion instrument "Wadaiko", and Namahage drums played by the Namahage.
 
The Namahage dance is an event that shouldn’t be missed. The appearance of Namahage dancing to songs under the light of the torches looks brave and powerful!

 

Date: February 12th – 14th , 2021 
Venue: Shinzan Shrine Kaguraden, shrine approach, and more. 
Access: During the festival, a temporary toll bus runs from JR Oga Station / Oga Onsenkyo to the venue.
※Advanced application is necessary to visit this event
※To prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection, restaurants, stand-up bleachers, or miki (sacred wine) will not be at this event.


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

https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/tohoku/
https://www.tohokukanko.jp/en/index.html

Aomori
https://www.japan.travel/en/travel-directory/Aomori/
https://www.en-aomori.com/

Akita
https://www.japan.travel/en/travel-directory/Akita/
https://www.pref.akita.lg.jp/en/pages/en?lang=en
https://oganavi.com/sedo/en/

Enjoy Famous Snow Events in Tohoku
https://www.japan.travel/en/my/fascinating-suburb-japan/enjoy-famous-snow-events-tohoku/

About the Michinoku Five Great Snow Festivals

http://www.michinokugodai.com/inbound/index.php
https://visithachinohe.com/en/
https://oganavi.com/sedo/en/about/

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