Updated: November 17, 2017
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Yokote Kamakura Festival: An Ancient Festival Of Snow-Houses Built For The God Of Water

The city of Yokote in Akita Prefecture holds one of Japan's coolest snow festivals. Throughout the town, snow shelters called kamakuras are built and lit from the inside. Here's more on this unique snow festival.

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Yokote Kamakura Festival

Yokote Kamakura Festival has a history of over 400 years. It is held every year on February 15 and 16. The festival highlight is the big and miniature snow houses called kamakuras.

What is a kamakura?

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A kamakura is an igloo-like shelter made by making a mound of snow and digging out the inside. They were made as a new year's tradition in the Niigata and Akita Prefectures. An alter is placed inside and candles are lit for the water diety.

How to Enjoy the Festival

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From dawn until 9 PM, children invite passers-by to come inside their "kamakuras". The guests then sit down for a moment and eat rice cakes and drink "amazake", a type of sweet sake that has very little or no alcohol. Chatting while enjoying these with friends, family or strangers is the best way to enjoy the festival. There are about 100 "kamakuras" in which you can enter at the festival. Before leaving, you should make an offering to the water deity as the custom goes.
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There are the miniature versions of the kamakuras that make an equally interesting part of the event. Along the Yokote River, countless mini kamakuras are candle-lit, creating a magnificent night scenery. Walking through the path of warm candle-lights reflected on the cold white snow creates a very soothing sentiment.
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Another point of focus of the festival is the area around the reconstructed Edo-style Yokote Castle. There are designated routes for you to enjoy the festival. You can start by the river and walk up to the castle while admiring the many kamakuras built around town.

Access

From Akita Station, take the JR Ou Line to Yokote Station. You can then walk to the festival's venue from the JR Yokote Station in about 10 minutes.
tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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