Japanese Summer Festivals and Fireworks in Nagano

July 21st, 2017 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

An archer in the Nyakuichi Oji Festival in Omachi City.

The vibrant, lively atmosphere of summer festivals is one of the most memorable parts of Japan. The streets are filled with the bright colors of yatai stalls, yukata robes, and paper lanterns, and the sky lights up with brilliant fireworks. Musicians play traditional flute and drum songs as performers entertain festival-goers with dances and theater.

As summer approaches its peak, Nagano gears up for exciting festivals of its own. Enjoy traditional Japanese summer festivals along with events that are unique to Nagano.

1. Japan Alps Art Festival (Omachi City)

“Shinano Omachi Tangible Landscape” by the creative team “Me.”


Utilizing traditional kominka houses and the rich nature at the base of the Japan Alps, Omachi City is hosting the first Japan Alps Art Festival with over 30 artists from around the world. Until July 30th, you can see beautiful works of art that explore the relationship between humans and nature.

“Windy” by Kuei-Chih Lee

Tickets can be purchased for 2,500 Yen and include one admission to every work as well as discounts on certain activities and restaurants. The event runs from June 4th to July 30th, 2017. You can learn more about the festival on the event’s official multilingual website, or see firsthand photographs from one of our bloggers here.


2. Iida Puppet Festival (Iida City)

Japanese and international puppet troops perform over the course of 6 days during the Iida Puppet Festival.


All of Iida City becomes host and stage of the biggest puppet festival in Japan. Bringing together puppet theater troupes from across Japan, Asia, and as far away as Europe, the fair features all forms and styles of puppetry from traditional ‘bunraku’ hand and shadow puppets to newer forms of object theater, pantomime, and ventriloquism. Audiences of all ages are fascinated, entertained, and enchanted with the puppet shows hosted at more than 100 venues throughout the city. In addition, there are a parade, workshops, and a midnight theater.

This year’s puppet festival will be held between Tuesday, August 1st and Sunday, August 6th. See our event page or their english website for more details.


3. Nagano’s Dancing Festivals (Various Locations)

A snapshot of the dance performed at Nagano’s Binzuru festival.


Around August, major cities throughout Nagano celebrate summer dance festivals. Locals join large groups of classmates, coworkers or friends, each with their own unique and colorful happi coats, and dance through the streets late into the evening. The simple melodies are contagious and friendly groups often invite you to dance along. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, snack on fried festival foods, and dance away the summer heat.

Ueda City celebrates its Wasshoi festival on Saturday, July 29th. Nagano (Binzuru), Matsumoto (Bonbon) and Iida cities (Ringon) celebrate their festivals on the same day, Saturday, August 5th.


4. Omachi Nyakuichi-Oji Festival (Omachi City)

A young boy trying traditional “yabusame” archery from horseback.


Omachi City’s Nyakuichi-Oji Shrine not only has a history of over 700 years, but its main building and pagoda are designated national important cultural properties. The shrine’s annual festival features a “yabusame” horseback archery competition. One of the top 3 such competitions in the country, Nyakuichi-Oji’s is the only one by young boys. The boys dressed in period costumes also perform a procession through the town as part of this colorful festival.

This year it will be held on July 22nd to 23rd. See more information on our event page.


5. Sakaki Festival (Mochizuki-juku in Saku City)

A long exposure photograph of flaming torchs being thrown into the river during the Sakaki Festival.


With burning pine torches in their hands, local youth run down from the mountain to the Kakuma riverbed, and together throw their torches into the river in an exciting spectacle. This festival is held on August 15th every year in Mochizuki-juku, a former post town of the Nakasendo. Through the cleansing fire, locals pray for their health and a bountiful harvest. It is said that a long time ago, the warring states general Takeda Shingen mistook the festival’s torchs for an ambush and immediately retreated with his troops.

The festival is held every year on August 15th. See more information on our events page.


6. Suwa Fireworks Festival (Suwa City)

A shot from the 2013 Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival.


Suwa’s fireworks display, held in mid-August every year, is hailed as one of the largest displays in all of Japan. Over 40,000 devices are exploded over the lake, with the sound reverberating off the surrounding mountains. The grand finale is a 2-kilometer long “niagara” of cascading sparkles. In early September, a second fireworks display is held featuring new experimental types. Suwa’s fireworks display was started shortly after World War II in the hopes of lightening people’s spirits in the aftermath of the war.

The Suwa Fireworks Festival is held every year on August 15th. The Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival is held on September 2nd. See more information on our events page.


7. Yuzawa Shrine Lantern Festival (Nozawa Onsen Village)

The performer dressed as Sarutohito no Mikoto dances while twirling a large bundle of burning hay.


During Yuzawa Shrine’s religious Lantern Festival, a parade of large poles weighted with plentiful lanterns extends through the streets of Nozawa Onsen. The Shinto deity Sarutohiko-no-Mikoto performs the purifying ritual called “Shimekiri,” where he rhythmically swings a large bundle of fire before cutting a ceremonial rope with a katana. Throughout town you can see performances of the Sarutahiko-no-Mikoto dance, the dance of the 36 great poets, and the dance of the lion. Also, from 19:30 yatai stalls fill the streets and fireworks light the sky. The next day an omikoshi float makes its rounds through the whole town.

This year, the festival will be held on September 8th and 9th.


Additional Information

Summer festivals are one of Japan’s most memorable experiences. Wear your own yukata, enjoy delicious street food and marvel at the sight of Japanese fireworks. People of all ages are out and about so you can meet locals and enjoy an authentic slice of life in Japan. If you’re interested in learning more about Nagano’s summer festivals and activities, take a look at some of the other resources below!

Links

5 Great Winter Festivals in Nagano

December 9th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.

Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?

Make some wonderful memories this winter with some of the festivals below!
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Enjoying Onsen Hot Springs in Nagano

June 10th, 2016 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs)

An outdoor bath with beautiful views of the Yatsugatake mountain range in Komi city[1].

Japan is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, blessing it with thousands of naturally heated mineral springs. These hot springs, or Onsen, have served an important role in Japanese daily life for hundreds of years. Locals came to the baths to cleanse themselves and socialize, and others came from far and wide to soak in springs that would cure their ills. Now, soaking in hot springs is an popular pastime attracting visitors from around the world.
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The State of Nagano Skiing this December

December 18th, 2015 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics
The beautiful northern alps are covered in snow, but green still shows in the valley.

Hakuba's mountains are beautifully covered in white.

Areas around the globe have been experiencing some crazy weather over the past month due to the dreaded El Niño effect. Wintery parts of the world have been unusually warm and green, and some areas of Japan have been reaching highs of 25℃ or more. It has also meant a late winter for Nagano prefecture, but don’t fear, folks: winter is here. The mountains are capped in white and ski resorts are open for business. Soon enough, your breath will be visible in your apartment and your shampoo will be freezing overnight.

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Late Autumn Harvest in Nagano

November 27th, 2015 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics
A hearty seven mushroom stew.

Delicious stew with freshly picked mushrooms.

 

Winter is almost upon us. The temperatures have dropped and the tops of the mountains are turning white with frost and early snow. But autumn hasn’t ended just yet, and there are still delicious foods to harvest before the snow swallows it all up. On Wednesday, I joined some travelers from Singapore to go mushroom and apple-picking. We spent the day in Nozawa Onsen and Yamanouchi enjoying the last, but not least, of autumn’s bounty.

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“Arena” Bathhouse at Nozawa Onsen Grand Re-Opening

December 12th, 2013 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Report
Nozawa Onsen’s bathhouse “Arena” is celebrating it’s Grand Re-Opening today, 12-December 2013.
In addition to the original mens and womens onsen baths and saunas, the renovated Arena now features a new style of onsen bathing — brand new outdoor baths for soaking while wearing bathing suits. 
Arena also has a “Relax Room” for unwinding after a soak, as well as restaurant facilities. 
And coming Summer 2014:
*A waterfall pool next to the new outdoor baths
*A kiddy pool
*A new garden featuring native trees and plants.
More pictures and map on the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort website (in Japanese)
http://www.nozawaski.com/winter/facilities/arena.php

Ski Mecca Nagano — Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

February 6th, 2013 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Our kids had a day off from school the other day.
The weather was postcard-perfect.
Lots of work to do, but….

When in Nagano during the winter, you just gotta go skiing.

So the kids and piled in the car, and went up to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort. Our son Andy wanted to try the 39-degree “Wall”, and I was looking forward to a soak in Nozawa’s onsen after skiing.

Family Fun at the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

While Andy tackled the Wall and the rest of Nozawa’s courses, I taught #2 son Kenny and our daughter Misaki how to ski at the Kids Park at the bottom. Andy was excited to have seen the ocean from the peak, and had a blast exploring all the various runs. Meanwhile, especially Misaki got hooked on skiing and wants to try it again.

After skiing at Nozawa, it’s against the rules not to take a soak in an onsen bath.

There are 13 “Soto-Yu” public bathhouses in Nozawa where locals and visitors alike are welcome to go and take baths for free (donations accepted). Locals take turns cleaning and maintaining the facilities, and the bathhouses act as gathering spots to chit-chat and catch up on things.

One of those bathhouses is Oyu. The stately elegant wood construction with the raised center roof to let the steam out is the classic “Yu-ya” (bathhouse) style. This is onsen culture at its finest.

Nozawa Oyu -- the granddaddy of Nozawa Onsen's public bathhouses

It had been years since I’d bathed at Oyu. So on this ski trip to Nozawa Onsen, the kids and I took the time (and followed the rule) to take a bath there.

Warning: Nozawa’s hot springs are scalding hot! Oyu is divided into mens and womens sides, and further divided into “Atsu-yu” (hot water) and “Nuru-yu” (moderate water). But even the nuru-yu was painfully hot (around 43 deg C), so we and the other guests added tapwater, and I used the wooden plank to stir up the bath, bringing the temperature down to a more enjoyable 40 degress C.

Dip carefully

The onsen water has a rich sulfur content. The strong smell makes bathing here a fantastic multi-sensation experience.

Nozawa Onsen — amazing skiing and amazing hot springs. Check it out!

My 5-day Ski and Onsen Trip to Nozawa Onsen

March 31st, 2012 by
Category: Cuisine, Information, Miscellaneous, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

— For Japanese translation of this article, click here (authorized link by Nagano Prefecture) —

Photo 1) Reconstructed Rest House YAMABIKO.
 
Photo 2) Brett and Hayley, snowboarders from Australia we interviewed.

My Ski Holidays at Nozawa Onsen Village

From Oct 2011, I wrote 3 reports about “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” (Report #1, Report #2, Report #3).  The reason for drawing up the reports was that I wanted to encourage international tourists to return to Nagano.  Now, one year has passed since the earthquakes of March 2011.  I thought I would like to choose Nozawa Onsen Village, which was partly damaged by the earthquakes in March 2011, for my ski holidays this year to witness the recovery.  When I was writing the 3 reports, Nozawa Onsen looked quite attractive for a vacation.  Then, I carried out the plan.  This is a report of my 5-day ski trip to Nozawa Onsen Village from March 5th to 9th, 2012.
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“Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna’ Declaration” Report #3: Nozawa Onsen Village

December 30th, 2011 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Events, Information, Miscellaneous, Onsens (Hot Springs), Report, Sightseeing

— For Japanese translation of this article, click here (authorized link by Nagano Prefecture) — 

oyu3
“Oyu” Public Bath. Nozawa Onsen Village is known for hot springs and has 14 public baths.
 
dosojin_7
Dynamic “Dosojin Festival” is one of the 3 great fire festivals in Japan.

 Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration

This is “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #3.  As reported in Report #1, “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” was issued in Nozawa Onsen Village by Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry and all of Nagano’s seventy Societies of Commerce and Industry on 24th Oct, 2011. It aims at strengthening ‘Kizuna’, which means bonds or ties, among the tourist destinations in Nagano (Shinshu) and powerfully promoting tourism and business again to cope with the influences of the earthquakes in March.  In Report #2, we focused on “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort”, which has been fully recovered from the damage of the earthquakes.  In this Report #3, we would like to convey the attractions of Nozawa Onsen Village from various perspectives.

 

The Village of Onsen (Hot Springs) — ‘Sotoyu’ for People and ‘Ogama’ for Food

Nakao-no-yu Public Bath, housed in a beautifu building, boasts large space.

Nakao-no-yu Public Bath, housed in a beautiful building, boasts large space.

Beautiful appearance of Oyu public bath. In front small Buddhist statues are placed.

Beautiful appearance of Oyu Public Bath. Small Buddhist statues are placed in front.

Kamiterayu Public Bath has hot springs not only for humans but also for boiling eggs.

Kamiterayu Public Bath has an area where you can boil your eggs in hot springs.

"Akiha-no-yu" Public Bath has an open atmosphere with large windows.

Akiha-no-yu Public Bath has an open atmosphere with large windows.

Local women are boiling Nozawana Cabbages in hot springs.

Local women are washing Nozawana Cabbages in hot springs.

Ogama hot springs are like Nozawa Onsen Village's kitchen. Water at 90 degrees celcius is spring out.

"Ogama" hot springs is called "Nozawa Onsen's Kitchen". 90 degree-water springs out.

Nozawa Onsen Village is, as its name “onsen” shows, famous for hot springs or onsen in Japanese.  There are 14 public baths called “sotoyu”, including Furusato-no-yu just opened on Dec 14th.  The public baths are common properties of the villagers, but they are opened to visitors thanks to the villagers’ hospitality.  The public baths are the places not only for bathing but also for warm communication among villagers and visitors.  It would be a great experience to stroll about the downtown with atmosphere and enter as many public baths as possible!    

Another interesting thing about hot springs in Nozawa Onsen is that villagers use the hot-spring water to wash or boil food (see the last two photos above).  There is a place called “Ogama” hot springs at the temperature of 90 degrees.  Villagers bring vegetables and eggs there and wash or boil them in the hot-spring water.  Therefore, Ogama is called “Nozawa Onsen’s Kitchen”.  Ogama is not opened to those other than villagers because it’s hot and dangerous.  But you can still try boiling your egg in hot springs.  In “Ashiyu Park Yurari” located near Ogama, you can boil your egg in “egg baths” while you enjoy soaking your feet in the foot bath next.  Some public baths also have special hot springs for eggs.

Tradition — Dosojin Festival, Akebi Handiworks, Nozawana Cabbage Pickles

dosojin_4

Dosojin Festival. On the evening of Jan 15, fire is set to a shrine built for the festival and other dedicated things.

 

A bag and a hatoguruma (a dove on wheels) woven with Akebi vines.

A basket and a hatoguruma (a dove on wheels) woven with Akebi vines.

nozawana_tsukekomi1

Recipes for Nozawana Cabbage Pickles vary depending on each home.

Nozawa Onsen’s attractions are not limited to hot springs and skiing.  On January 15th every year, the village celebrates its famous Dosojin Festival, which is one of Japan’s three great fire festivals.  Dosojin are a pair of male and female gods whose statues are enshrined along roads.  They protect us from bad luck and bring us a chance of marriage and having a baby. The festival is really dynamic.  A special shrine is built by local men for the festival and fire is set to the shrine and other dedicated things on the evening of January 15th.  The next festival is coming soon, so why not come and look yourself?

As for traditional handicrafts of Nozawa Onsen, Akebi vine works are famous.  If you come to the village, you will soon find a “hatoguruma” (a dove on wheels) woven by hand with Akebi vines.  Hatoguruma is a toy for children, but it will be perfect as a souvenir to display on your shelf.  Akebi vines are also used to make practical products such as baskets.  Akebi vines are very strong, so you can use products for a long time.  The above photo of a basket and a hatoguruma made with Akebi vines (second from the last) was taken thanks to the cooperation of an Akebi vine craft shop and studio “Sankyu Kogei”.  Their website is http://www14.plala.or.jp/sankyu39/

Finally, I would like to introduce Nozawana Cabbage Pickles (see the last photo above).  The pickles are enormously popular not only in Nozawa Onsen Village but also all over Nagano Prefecture, but the home of Nozawana Cabbages is Nozawa Onsen Village.  They are simple but tasty and go well with boiled rice.  Nagano people enjoy Nozawana Cabbage Pickles at teatime, too.  You can find the pickles at almost every souvenir shop and grocer’s. 

Nozawa Onsen Village is welcoming domestic and international guests.  Please come and stay in Nozawa Onsen Village this winter and enjoy snow, hot springs and Japanese culture.  Your visit will definately help Nagano and Japan’s recovery!  Thank you for reading.

Name of the facility NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association
Description of business Tourism association
Address 9780-4 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-2502
TEL / FAX
  • TEL: 0269-85-3155 (Japan country code: 81)
  • FAX: 0269-85-3883 (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail info@nozawakanko.jp
URL
Access Refer to http://nozawakanko.jp/english/ (Click “Access”)
Operating dates Open every day from 8:30 to 18:00
Prices
How to contact Fax or e-mail
General information of Nozawa Onsen Village Contact NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association as above.

Special thanks to: Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, The Community of Commerce and Industry of NOZAWA ONSEN, NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association, and residents and concerned people of Nozawa Onsen Village.

Nozawa Onsen’s Newest Bathhouse: Furusato no yu

December 21st, 2011 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs)

Nozawa Onsen boasts 14 public bathhouses.  The latest, Furusato no Yu, just opened on December 15th, 2011. 

New Furusato no Yu's facade (Picture courtesy of Masaki Kono, Nozawa Onsen Tourism Assoc.)

New Furusato no Yu's facade (Picture courtesy of Masaki Kono, Nozawa Onsen Tourism Assoc.)

While it isn’t free like the other public bathhouses, it does offer basic ammenities like soap and shampoo.  It also features a variety of baths.  Nozawa Onsen’s hot spring mineral water tends to be a bit high temperature-wise (45 degree celsius bath, anyone?).  At Furusato no Yu, both the mens and womens sides have a regular bath (read, ‘scalding’) and one with a cooler temperature, as well as an outdoor bath.

The Open-Air Bath (Picture also courtesy of Kono-san)

The Open-Air Bath (Picture also courtesy of Kono-san)

Nearby O-Yu bathhouse tends to be featured in all of Nozawa Onsen’s tourism brochures, and can’t be beat for classic wooden charm and getting to bathe with the locals.  But thanks to the new Furusato no Yu,  now there is a newer and perhaps more approachable public bathing option.

Name Furusato no Yu (ふるさとの湯)
Description of business Public bath house
Address Nozawa Onsen Village, Shimotakai-gun (Google Map)
TEL (0269)85-3700
URL (Japanese) http://nozawakanko.jp/spa/furusato.php
Access On Asagama-dori Street, 500m (6 min. walk) from Nozawa Onsen Chuo Terminal bus stop
Operating dates and hours 2pm-9pm (Entrance until 8:30pm). Closed Thursdays. If Thursday is a national holiday, then closed the following day instead.
Prices ¥500 for adults; ¥300 for age 3 through primary school aged children.
General information for Nozawa Onsen Go-Nagano website