© Chichibu Tourism Association
Three Winter Festivals in the Tokyo Suburbs
Various festivals and events are held in various parts of Japan throughout the year. Winter festivals seem to have a strong association with the snow festivals held in the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas, but in fact, many festivals unique to winter are also held in the Tokyo suburbs. This time, we will introduce traditional winter festivals held at shrines and temples! Also, winter in Japan can get quite cold, so winter clothes such as winter scarves, gloves and thick undergarments are essential.
※All information and prices listed are accurate as of October 2020.
（1）Chichibu Night Festival (Saitama)
（2）A memorial service for burning old amulets (Chiba)
（3）Nanakusataisai Darumaichi (Gunma)
（1）Magnificent Floats & Kasaboko!
Chichibu Night Festival (Saitama)
© Chichibu Tourism Association
"Chichibu Night Festival" is the most important festival held at Chichibu Shrine in the Saitama Prefecture, which is registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is held every year on December 2nd and 3rd, and it is a historic festival which dates back to the Edo period from 1661-1973. Along with the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Takayama Festival held in Hida Takayama/ Gifu, it is considered to be one of the three major Hikiyama festivals (a festival where floats are pulled along in a line) in Japan.
The climax of the festival is the float towing on December 3rd. A scene where the lights of the bonbori lamps sway, and four floats and two Kasaboko parasol floats (decorated halberds used for festivals) decorated with colourful sculptures are pulled up the steep slope of the Otabisho together with the shouting voices is a must-see! While the drum beats echo, the appearance of the floats and Kasaboko floats proceeding forward like a ship is also quite impressive. Additionally, from 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM on that day, around 7,000 fireworks will go off at Hitsujiyama Park. The air is clear in winter, so fireworks sparkling in the night sky is sure to make a wonderful memory!
Event Date: December 2nd & 3rd
※The scale of the event will be smaller in 2020. Floats, Kasaboko float towing, portable shrines, fireworks displays, and some rituals will not be available during the event. For further details about the event, please refer to the official website.
Access: It takes about 2.5 hours from Tokyo Station to Chichibu Station or about 2 hours and 10 minutes to Seibu Chichibu Station. About 3 minutes on foot from Chichibu Railway Chichibu Station, about 15 minutes on foot from Seibu-Chichibu Station if arriving on the Seibu-Chichibu Line.
(2) To thank "Ofudo-sama“
Return to Fudo: a memorial service for burning old amulets (Chiba)
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is one of the most prominent temples in Japan, visited by over 10 million worshippers annually.
Every year from 11:00 AM on December 28th, the traditional event "Return to Fudo Old Amulet Burning Service" is held on the west side of the main shrine hall. This event is a prayer of gratitude for the one-year blessing from the principal deity, Fudō Myō-ō (more commonly known as Fudō-sama), by burning up the old O-goma Fuda (a talisman for the spiritual virtues of the Fudo）that were enshrined in homes and companies. The attendees pray with their hands facing the burning flames in the solemn atmosphere of the sutra chants.
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is easy to reach from Narita Airport, so be sure to stop by the shrine either on arrival at the airport, on the way back, or even when making a transfer!
There are many restaurants and souvenir shops lined up on Omotesando (main approach), which stretches about 800m from Narita Station to Shinshoji Temple. It is especially famous for its many eel restaurants too!
Event Date: December 28
※Refer to the official website for details regarding the event
Access: It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to Keisei Narita Station from Tokyo.About 10 minutes on foot from Keisei Electric Railway Keisei Narita Station.
(3) Make a request to the god of good luck "Fuku Daruma"！
Nanakusataisai Darumaichi (Gunma)
The "Shorinzan Nanakusataisai Darumaichi" is held on January 6th and 7th every year at Shorinzan Daruma-ji, an Obaku sect temple situated in Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture.
It is a historical traditional event that has been passed down since its founding about 320 years ago. Daruma refers to a monk from India who introduced Buddhism to China, but in Japan, Daruma is an ornament that imitates the Dharma sitting in Zen position.
Particularly, it is said that the lucky Daruma "Fuku Daruma", that is sold at the beginning of each year, originated from Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple. Lots of worshippers bought Daruma from the night festival before the 6th, so it was bustling with people.
During the event, food stands from all around the country are lined up, and they also sell lucky Daruma of various sizes. In addition, Noh and Kyogen will be performed in the large hall at the "Shorinzan Hoshi Matsuri Noh Kanze School" on the night of the 6th.
Event Date: January 6th and 7th
※The festival is scheduled to be held on a smaller scale this year. For more details, refer to the official website.
Access: It takes about 1 hour from Tokyo to Takasaki Station by Shinkansen. From Takasaki Station on the JR Takasaki Line, take the Gururin Shorinzan Line Bus bound for Notsuke (West Exit No. 1） ride for about 20 minutes, and get off at the bus stop "Syorinzan Iriguchi"
Refer to the following for more information on the facilities mentioned in this article
5 Transportation Passes for Affordable Travelling Around Kanto
Chichibu Night Festival
Chichibu Shrine: http://www.chichibu-jinja.or.jp/（Japanese only）
About Chichibu Night Festival: http://www.chichibu-matsuri.jp/en/
Return to Fudo: a memorial service for burning old amulets
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple: https://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/
Shorinzan Nanakusataisai Darumaichi
Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple: http://www.daruma.or.jp/eng/index.html