Translated byHilary Keyes
Writer, translator, designer, weirdo.
Held in Yokote, Akita prefecture, the Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival centers on the traditional New Year event of 'kamakura'. The fantastic snowy world and winter Bon Den festival are must-see events at this unique matsuri!
Photo courtesy of: Yokote Tourism Association
The Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival is an annual winter festival held from January to February in Yokote, Akita prefecture, in the Tohoku region of Japan. Not only can you experience seeing kamakura or cave-like houses made from snow, but you can also see the bonden, a large offering ceremony at a Shinto shrine during this amazing event.
Kamakura have been built as a part of the 14th-16th days of the lunar calendar New Year celebrations in the northern areas of Japan for the past 450 years or so; these are built to worship the water gods. After making a monetary offering to the water gods that are enshrined within the kamakura during this time, worshipers pray for blessings regarding the safety of their family, business prosperity, abundant harvests, and for other wishes.
The bonden is a 300 year old traditional event in this region where 5 m tall, gigantic shrine tools are dedicated at a shrine. The men in this procession wear splendid implement-shaped headdresses while competing against one another as they head towards Asahiokayama Shrine, where they battle against one another to enter the main shrine area for the dedications - it is an exciting spectacle to behold.