Top Page Article

No.252 (1/24/14)

Winter Festivals: A Romantic Adventure

By Ashley Procahska
Guest Writer

Every year in northern Japan, winter hits pretty hard. In Misawa, snowfall averages about 140 inches, 355 centimeters, a year. During those months of cold, it can be hard to find the energy to get out of the house, let alone out of the city. But there are plenty of festivals happening all around us during these dreary winter months.

Lake Towada Winter Story Festival
The Lake Towada Festival happens every year for around 24 days through winter. Giving you plenty of opportunities to explore the winter fun around you and follow the magically winter story.

Lake Towada turns into a magical atmosphere with snow full of lights. Visitors can enjoy listening to live Japanese musical performances, experience dancing Nebuta dancers, and eating food unique to the Aomori prefecture. This year it all be held February 7th-March 2nd.

On top of all the winter snow and live performances, the festival field, Aomori and Akita share their favorited cuisine, wine, and Japanese sake. There are also light and sound shows to share and a place you can warm your feet in foot baths. Through the night, big snow sculptures are lit up by lights, and snow lanterns are lit creating a truly romantic atmosphere.

Lake Towada brings the lights to the sky through the night in a striking fireworks display. The beauty of the snow white landscape against all the lights around you is surreal and charming. It is a place full of wonder and experiences that can be had by couples and families alike.

Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival
The Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival is held every year in February. Hirosaki has always been known for its cherry blossom festivals in spring but it also creates an enchanting and romantic snow covered view in the winter. It was originally started in 1977. The aim was to encourage winter tourism and it was matched with open arms. Now, it is one of the 5 biggest Michinoku Snow Festivals. With the contrast between bright lights and a dark night, the Hirosaki castle is awe-inspiring.

This year the festival will be just as stunning. The Hirosaki Park will be open the weekend before Valentine's Day, February 8th-11th, which is very fitting because this festival is unbelievably romantic.

Around 200 snow lanterns and 300 miniature igloos light up the winter nights in this breathtaking view. The miniature igloos are called kamakura and contain lights of their own. The artwork on display gives more to the picturesque view. The park and castle grounds have what seem like hundreds of lanterns that have colorful art in them as well. The park has traditional music playing softly over loudspeakers, coupled with the lanterns and night sky, it can be a magical experience.

In the daytime, the festival is full of concerts, games and vendors. There are snow sculptures of popular characters, snow slides and other wintertime fun to be had in the park. For many of the people who live around Hirosaki, it is nice to enjoy some of the long and challenging winter around them.

Hachinohe Enburi Festival

Just like it's neighbors, Hachinohe suffers from the same long and bitter winter. The people of the Aomori prefecture have found that winter festivals help to brighten their spirits during their harshness. In the middle of February, Hachinohe shares a festival that is over 800 years old and attempts to bring the beginning of spring a little earlier.

The Hachinohe Enburi Festival was originally held to beg the gods for a good farming season and a bountiful harvest in the coming year. Dancers wear stunning headdresses, believed to be sacred and have the ability to make their wishes come true. They also wear traditional footwear of Aomori, straw-woven shoes, which seems remarkable in the cold of winter.

They dance with farming poses, and ritual dances to the music of flutes and drums. The dance is an act of prayer for a bountiful harvest and creates a cultural lesson for the young and old. The dancers use rainbow colored ribbons which contrast beautifully against the whiteness of the snow.

This year the Enburi Festival will be from February 17-20th and will be full of exciting and ritualistic approaches to a healthy and happy spring. The festival is also filled with Aomori prefecture cuisine, artwork and sliding for children of all ages.

While winter tries its best to keep you indoors and locked in your houses, remember that all around us in the coming months are opportunities to bring the magic of winter to life in romantic, beautiful and creative ways.

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