Two enchanting winter festivals
With snow falling and ski lifts starting to open, winter has finally arrived in Japan. A country overflowing with festive traditions, Japan’s most well-known festivals are held during the summer, however, there are a number of winter festivals that should not be overlooked by Australian travellers.
For those planning to visit Japan during the winter months, why not head north to the Tohoku region using the JR EST PASS to explore two of the region’s most captivating winter festivals.
Elaborate Snow Sculptures on the banks of Lake Towada
From early February to the beginning of March every year, Lake Towada Winter Story is a festival which is held on the banks of the frozen Lake Towada. The festival features large scale illuminated snow sculptures and a tunnel made of 160,000 LED lights make the isolated area come to life with vivid colours.
In addition to countless local food and drink stalls at the festival, visitors can also enjoy listening to performances of the Tsugaru Shamisen. This style of playing the traditional Japanese instrument originated in Aomori’s Tsugaru Peninsula and is characterised by its speed and rhythm as the players melodically hammer on the strings, leaving listeners wanting to hear more.
Each night of the festival is completed with a dazzling firework display that with the help of the cold temperatures allow the booming sounds to echo across the lake.
Where: Aomori Prefecture is the northmost prefecture of Honshu Island – the largest of Japan’s four main islands. On the border of Aomori and Akita Prefectures, you can find Lake Towada.
How to get there: The area can be accessed by a special shuttle bus which can be caught from the JR Shichinohe-Towada Station.
Glowing warmth of hundreds of Kamakura in Yokote City
The 450-year-old Yokote winter festival invites visitors in February to see the hundreds of Kamakura (igloos) which are built at various locations throughout the city. The larger igloos can sit several adults at one time and are heated – each containing small snow alters dedicated to the water deities (or gods).
Although the festival’s exact origins are unknown, the main purpose of the festival is to pay respect to the water gods for clean and pure waters. During the festival, children in the igloos will offer you toasted mochi (rice cakes) and locally made amazake (sweet rice wine) in return for your offering at one of the altars.
The mini-decorative kamakuras are lit-up with candles and are fill out spaces in the city, making it glow with warmth despite the cold winter weather.
Where: Akita prefecture is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. In the prefecture’s southern area, you can find the small city of Yokote.
How to get there: The city is most easily accessed by their main station -Yokote Station – with the JR Ou Main Line.
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About East Japan Railway Company
The East Japan Railway Company (JR East) operates trains including the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet trains) in the East Japan region. The company is the largest passenger railway company in Japan, serving around 17 million people every day and their network covers the half of the main island of Honshu, from the Tokyo metropolis to multiple areas in Eastern Japan. Apart from the main railway business, JR East Japan also operates various other establishments such as shopping malls, retail shops, restaurants and hotels as well as managing office buildings.
For more information, please visit: https://www.eastjapanrailway.com/2020-winter/
About the JR EAST PASS
The JR EAST PASS is a special discount pass for international visitors to Japan (limited to those entering on a short term 90-day visa). Pass holders can get unlimited access to all JR East Japan Railways (Shinkansen bullet trains), affiliated railway companies and JR buses for 5 days within the period of 14 days from the date of issue of the pass. Visitors arriving into Narita or Haneda Airport can start their holidays by using the pass to head straight out to the beautiful and lesser-known Tohoku region and multiple other locations throughout Eastern Japan. We hope visitors will enjoy their trip to Japan with this great deal, the JR EAST JAPAN PASS!
For more information, please visit: https://www.jreast.co.jp/multi/pass/index.html
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