Photo By: Akita, Yokote winter festival
Region
Tohoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Akita
Population
1,189,215

Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

Snow huts and water gods.

  • Dates: Feb. 15 to 16, 2019; Time: The kamakura (snow domes) are open from 6-9 p.m.
The Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival is a classic winter event that sees the city filled with hundreds of hollowed-out snow domes known as kamakura. These range in size from tiny ones just large enough to hold a candle, to full-size igloos that can comfortably host small groups of people.

Kamakura are a traditional feature in parts of northern Japan, and this festival in Yokote city, Akita Prefecture, has a history dating back around 450 years. The snow domes were originally built to deify a Shinto water god, and pray for abundant water, bountiful harvests and the safety of the community. Even now, if you go inside one during the festival you will find an altar where you can make an offering to the deity.

When dusk falls, local children call out to invite visitors into the over 100 larger kamakura (approximately 3.5 meters tall) built at different sites all around the city. The main locations to visit include Yokote Central City Hall Festival Plaza, Minami Elementary School and Yokote Castle. The latter extends its opening hours until 10 p.m. so that visitors can also enjoy a stunning night view of the city from the observation deck.

Yokote city turns into an romantic little spot come winter. Akita, winter

Yokote city turns into a romantic little spot come winter.

As well as praying, if you accept the invitation inside you will be able to enjoy freshly grilled mochi (sticky rice cakes) and amazake (a sweet, low-to-non alcoholic drink made from fermented rice) – perfect for banishing the winter chill!

As well as the large kamakura, countless smaller snow domes are constructed along the bank of the Yokote River. These are illuminated from within by candles after dark, creating a second river of romantic flickering light next to the water.

In Yokote’s Kamakurakan Hall, a couple of kamakura are preserved year-round.

During the day there are other festive activities you can take part in, including having a go at building your own kamakura in Komyoji Park. There are also food stalls, a snow slide and snow sculptures to admire. And don’t miss the 300-year-old bonden ceremony at Asahiokayama Shrine (Map) on Feb. 17, when gigantic five-meter-tall, 30-kilogram highly decorated wooden poles are carried through the town to be offered to the gods.

In Yokote’s Kamakurakan Hall, a couple of kamakura are preserved year-round in a special low-temperature room just for visitors. So even if you can’t visit Yokote during the two days of the festival, it’s still possible to see one of these traditional snow domes for yourself.

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Things To Know

Details

The festival is held annually on Feb. 15 and 16. Admission is free. Main Location: Yokote Central City Hall Festival Plaza. The average temperature is around -3 C, so dress accordingly! Wear warm boots and thick socks.

Kamakurakan Hall

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 29 to Jan. 3); Admission: ¥100

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒013-0023 Akita-ken, Yokote-shi, Chūōmachi, 8−12 ふれあいセンターかまくら館

By train

The festival venue is approximately 10 minutes’ walk from JR Yokote station.

The nearest station is JR Yokote. From Tokyo station the journey takes just over three and a half hours, with a change from the Akita Shinkansen (bullet train) to the Ou Line at Omagari station.

By bus

During the festival evenings, a free shuttle bus runs in a loop between several of the festival locations, including Kamakurakan Hall and Yokote Castle.

Where To Stay

Yokote Plaza Hotel
  • Ekimaecho 7-1 Yokote-Shi, Akita 013-0036
  • 7.8/10
  • 0.6 km
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Yokote Central Hotel
  • Heiwacho 9-10 Yokote-Shi, Akita 013-0035
  • 7.4/10
  • 0.9 km
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Quad Inn Yokote
  • Yasuda Sekibata 52-1 Yokote-Shi, Akita 013-0043
  • 8.3/10
  • 1.1 km
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Hotel Tetora Resort Yokote Onsen
  • Mutsunari Shirotsuke 1-20 Yokote-Shi, Akita 013-0008
  • 7/10
  • 1.7 km
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