Did you know Japan is a great winter destination for festivals that appeal to anyone interested in visual spectacles of multi-coloured lights and snow-art? The following four stunning celebrations are products of the Japanese people’s ingenuity and determination. Prepare to be amazed!
1. The Sapporo Snow Festival
Where: Sapporo, Japan
For those of you who don’t know The Sapporo Snow Festival is a massively popular winter festival in Japan, which has caught the eye of not just the Japanese public but also people from all over the world. Snow and ice sculptures are the main headliners of this festival, with each’s structures getting bigger, better and more creative. Last year, the festival really upped the amp by adding a very Mount Rushmore-y snow sculpture and Storm troopers, in addition to popular anime characters and even some sculptures of Taj Mahal. The main Star Wars structure was 50 feet tall and seven feet wide, which probably makes it the biggest Star Wars tribute structure today. Below are some fantastic pictures of the festival!
2. Kobe Luminarie
Where: Kobe, Japan
Every December, Japan is the place to visit if visually inspiring celebrations are your thing. The clear air and crispy weather makes it the perfect setting for light festivals like the spectacular Kobe Luminarie.
Kobe Luminarie has quite the history. As some of you may know, the city of Kobe (known for its world class beef and being the birthplace of Kobe Bryant) was hit with a terrible earthquake way back in 1995. Because of its proximity to the epicentre of the earthquake, it underwent the most devastation to its infrastructure and local’s lives. The earthquake left the city without electricity and was incidentally immersed in darkness for a while. To lift the spirits of people and bring back some hope to the city, a light festival named Kobe Luminarie was started featuring lights donated by the Italian government. The festival including installations by an Italian designer Valerio Festi and Kobe resident Hirokazu Imaoka. Since then the festival, (because of its immense popularity) has been held every year as a reminder of the hope that follows every tragedy. By each year, the installations and production gets better as over three million people flock to Kobe to witness the grand festival.
3. Winter Illuminations Festival
When: November to March
Where: Nabana no Sato, Japan
Let us just tell you this, the Winter Illuminations at Nabana no Sato are beyond breathtaking. This five-month festival (from November to March) features the most lovely displays of light at a botanical garden in Nagashima. During the five months, the park is transformed into a visual paradise with millions of sparkling LED lights cast over the massive gardens and water-bodies. Every year comes with a theme and this year’s is ‘nature’. The festival organisers assure us that there will be so much more this year, from an experimental ‘sunrise’ light show as well as rainbows across the sky. What is really captivating are the tunnels of light, which visitors can walk through. The experience is magical.
4. Cherry Blossom Festivals
When: January to April
Where: All over Japan
When it comes to festivals that celebrate light, colour and all things beautiful, Japan does it the best. All across Japan, the spring season marks the blooming of gorgeous cherry blossoms, which the Japanese folk have been worshipping and honouring ever since Imperial Japan.
From January to April, many towns, cities and provinces host their own cherry blossom festivities that include decorative lanterns to light up parks that grow these particular trees. This tradition of hanami is a gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees or Sakura are found and thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the splendorous trees.
The celebrations often go on till late night, where families, friends, lovers and coworkers enjoy the spring air and lit up blossoms. In cities like Tokyo, the party only begins once the sun goes down and people are relieved from work, making the celebration an all-night-long one.
Each Sakura honouring festival differs from place to place, giving it a broader perspective. For example the Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen Cherry Blossom Festival in Tsuyama-city, Okayama hosts Japanese tea ceremonies and music performers under the Sakura, while Matsue Jozan Koen Festival in Matsue-city, Shimane is known particularly for its unique illumination of the cherry blossom trees at night.
This only proves that spring season is probably the best time to visit Japan.