Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival – The Run down
Just 3 more sleeps until the main event the famous Fire Festival takes place in Nozawa Onsen on Sunday the 15th of January. An amazing festival, steeped in history and an unbelievable spectacle. It looks like the snow gods will be coming to the party big time this year too. It is well known amongst locals that it snows the heaviest in Nozawa around this time and looks like this year will be no exception.
The build up to the Festival is also well worth checking out and here is some of the happenings to try and get down and see it.
Right now – The Toro to celebrate the kids
Don’t forget today and tomorrow you can check out the Toru which are the beautifully decorated towers which, are erected in the village to celebrate the births of babies in the last year or two.
There are 2 towers this year one is on the main road just down from Villa Nozawa erected by the Miyasei family that have 2 children.
The other is sponsored by the Year 4 Children at the local Primary School and their teacher Kimura Sen Sei . They have stepped forward as there was no other families able to do it this year. This happens from time to time and the Village likes to have atleast 2 Toru. These also go up in flames on the night of the 15th and is an amazing culmination of work, life and celebration.
Friday 13th of January – The Tree Drag
The fun begins with the villagers in their bad luck years being 42 and 25 dragging the trees down the hill to use in construction of the shrine which is later burnt to the ground.
It starts at 13:00pm at the Ski Museum just up on the Hikage Slopes. The locals will drag the heavy logs down the slopes and race eachother across the Hikage bowl. Then drag the logs down thru the streets of the village to the Dosojin Ceremony Grounds by 17:00 where they will start the build. They drink copious amounts of Sake on the way down and there are lots of thrills and spills so wander down for a look.
Saturday the 14th of January – The Build
Not a lot of building goes on on the 13th as everyone is pretty beat by the time they get the logs down to the arena at the bottom of the Village. They start early on the 14th and have less than 48 hours to erect the impressive shrine. It is all hands on deck and some of the craftsmen have being doing it for decades so know the process well. So head down to the Ceremony grounds to watch the construction.
Sunday the 15th of January – The Fire
In the morning the villagers are still working away to get the shrine completed and are often hindered by heavy snow. By 1pm they like to have everything done. That is when the local Priest arrives and blesses the Shrine, the Festival and all that are involved with it. All the kids from the local school which is just nearby come to pay their respects to the hard working villagers and soak up the atmosphere. They are also the first ones to try and set fire to the shrine that night and what a night it is.
Time Table for the Nozawa Fire Festival
19:00 Bring the fire to the fire festival arena.
19:30 Towers representing the new births arrive
20;00 Fireworks and the Dosojin drummers
20;30 Fire begins with the kids and dignitaries kicking it off
20;50 Adults attack the Tower with burning sticks
22;00 The Tower is set alight
Take care, be respectful and enjoy the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival
If you are in Nozawa, Welcome. The Fire Festival is a privilege and an amazing experience to witness and we really hope you fully enjoy it. Please be respectful of the local people doing their best to make it a safe and amazing festival. Don’t drink too much and keep warm it will be very cold there this year so rug up!
Can see more information and history on the festival right here.