Stay Safe in Japan Update: 21/09/2018, 19:14


More Information

Yokote Snow Festival 2020 Guide - See Snow Huts And Winter Traditions In Japan

Yokote Snow Festival 2020 Guide - See Snow Huts And Winter Traditions In Japan

Akita 2019.11.20 Bookmark

The Yokote Snow Festival is a traditional celebration welcoming the New Year, held in Yokote, Akita Prefecture. Enjoy the stunning snowscape, kamakura igloos, and the bonden (tall ornamental wands) dedication ritual at this Japanese winter festival.

Translated by Ken

Written by MATCHA

Yokote Snow Festival - Kamakura and Shinto Rituals

A Guide To The Yokote Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of Yokote Tourism Association

The Yokote Snow Festival is held annually from January to February in Akita Prefecture's Yokote City, located in the Tohoku region. Not only can you step inside traditional kamakura igloos, but you can also witness the dedication ritual of the sacred bonden.

For 450 years, communities in snowy regions have made snow huts during the Little New Year (*) to venerate the water deity.

After entering the kamakura, people offer money to the water deity and pray for the safety of their home, success in business, and a plentiful harvest.

The dedication ritual of the bonden, a five-meter-long religious object, has been practiced by the community for 300 years.

As they make their way to Asahiokayama Shrine, participants compete over the best headdress for the bonden. Once there, they triumphantly enter the shrine and offer their ornate bonden.

*Little New Year: A tradition related to the New Year, taking place three days before and after January 15.

Highlights of the Yokote Snow Festival

Kamakura Huts and Winter Illuminations

A Guide To The Yokote Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of Yokote Tourism Association

From 18:00 on February 15 and 16, miniature kamakura huts will be constructed and lit up at the Janosaki Riverbed, Yokoteminami Elementary School, and throughout the city. Witness the breathtaking beauty of a multitude of kamakuras glowing by candlelight.

On the same dates, you can also go inside a kamakura and rent out one for your family and friends. Reservations are required. (3,000 yen for one hour during the 2019 season. Contact the Yokote Tourism Association for more details: 0182-33-7111.)

A miniature kamakura-making experience will also be offered to visitors. The workshop will take place at the Kamakurakan Hall, located beside the Yokote City Hall, at 11:00 and 14:00. The workshop is one hour long (check-in begins 30 minutes before the event).

Bonden Ritual - Male Participants Storming into the Main Hall

A Guide To The Yokote Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of Yokote Tourism Association

The bonden ritual refers to the offering of a heisoku (Shinto ritual wand) to the kami (Japanese deities). These decorated wands are quite large to make the bonden visible from afar. The bonden used for the Yokote Snow Festival is five meters tall and weighs 30 kilograms.

Although bonden rituals are held throughout Akita Prefecture, none are as grandiose as that of Yokote City.

The bonden is carried to the shrine by a long procession of people. After receiving a signal, male participants carry the bonden and rush into the main hall. This ritual is a captivating sight to behold in person.

Dates for the Yokote Snow Festival 2020

The following are the dates for the Yokote Snow Festival in 2020. We will update the schedule as more information on specific events is released on their website (Japanese).

Kamakura

Yokote Kamakura Event: February 15 - 16, 2020; 18:00 - 21:00

Akita Furusato Village Kamakura Event: Scheduled for late January to mid-February

Kamakura Photo Shoot: Scheduled for February 14, 2020 (*Take photos with a kamakura and a traditional house in the background.)

Venues and Venue Access

A Guide To The Yokote Snow Festival

Photo courtesy of Yokote Tourism Association

Kamakura Venue

You can see kamakuras in various locations throughout the city during the festival.

Main Venue: Doro Koen Park in front of Yokote City Hall

Access: 10 minutes by foot from Yokote Station

Bonden Ritual Venue

The bonden dedication route extends from Yokote City Hall to Asahiokayama Shrine. On the day of the ritual, you can watch from anywhere along the road.

To see the exciting offering, we recommend heading to Asahiokayama Shrine.

Location: The dedication festival runs from Omatsuri Plaza, Yokote City Hall Main Office, to Asahiokayama Shrine (approx. 3 kilometers)

Access: 10 minutes by foot from Yokote Station to Yokote City Hall

Staying Warm at the Yokote Snow Festival

Yokote City is known for its heavy snowfall. While you can expect to enjoy the snowscape, make sure you prepare proper clothing and shoes.

Shoes/Boots

The road will be very slippery once it freezes over. Be especially careful when walking at night. You will slip even if you wear shoes with rubber soles. We recommend having a pair of snowshoes with cleats.

Alternatively, you can wear boots or use attachable cleats. Refrain from wearing heels, since they are extremely dangerous.

Clothes

The temperature in February can get as low as -3 degrees Celsius, and the humidity will make you feel even colder. We think it's best to be extra prepared for extremely cold weather. Scarves and neck warmers are necessary to protect against harsh conditions. You will, of course, want a thick coat. Outerwear that comes with a hood and is water-resistant will be helpful when it snows.

Yokote City Fureai Center Kamakurakan

View Information

In cooperation with Yokote Tourism Association
*The original article was published on January 15, 2017. This is a reissue for the 2020 season.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

Related topics