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Despite taking place in a Shinto shrine, the roots of the magical Yukitoro festival are undeniably modern. A large number of such festivals have cropped up over the country in recent years – each offering something unique, at times something bizarre, or, as in this case, something unforgettably beautiful.
Taking place for the first time in 2011, the Yukitoro snow lantern festival features more than 2,000 lanterns, collected together and placed among the surrounding snow at the local Jozankei Shrine. Each one individually hand-made, the lanterns were originally displayed outside local ryokan (inns) and hotels as a means of welcoming customers.
Yukitoro: snow lanterns.
Kuon: a dancer utilizing fire.
Onsen: a hot spring bath/spa.
The Yukitoro festival takes place at the same time as the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival. There are actually quite a few similar snow lantern festivals across Hokkaido. However, the Yukitoro remains one of the most popular due to the unique fact that it takes place in a historic shrine. The mysterious beauty of the night shrine illuminated in a candlelit glow creates a striking contrast that you would certainly be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The climax of the festival is by far the fire dance performed by the kuon. If you can, I recommend staying until the end to witness this.
A popular belief is that if you make a wish and write it on a candle, light the candle and then bring it to the ‘flame of wishes’ candle tower, your wish will come true!
Winters in Hokkaido are freezing cold, so I strongly advise wrapping up for sub-zero temperatures!
There is a stall in the venue selling hot drinks as well as onion soup made from local Hokkaido onions.
Jozankei is famous as an onsen (hot spring/spa) town. The region boasts a large variety of hotels with onsen facilities. Additionally, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort (one of the biggest ski resorts in Japan) is just a 30-minute drive away. And what better way to end a hard day’s skiing than by taking a relaxing bath in a natural Japanese hot spring?
Dates and time: 30th January to 3rd February 2019 (18:00 – 21:00). Usually the festival is held every year at the end of January – beginning of February.
Venue: Jozankei Shrine
Address: 3 cho-me Jozankei Onsen, Higashi, Minami-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Official Website: http://jozankei.jp/en/yukitouro/1097
Entrance fee: free (500JPY to place a candle within the ‘flame of wishes’ tower)
Access: about a 50-minute drive from Sapporo City, or by Jotetsu bus (alighting at Jozankei-jinja-mae)
Car park: 30 free public parking spaces available
・Enquiries: 011-598-2012 (Jozankei sightseeing organization)
If you happen to be in Hokkaido next winter, don’t miss a chance to visit Jozankei Shrine during this charming festival and make a wish. A free shuttle bus takes visitors between the shrine and the main part of the Jozankei Onsen town. Skiing in the mountains of Hokkaido, soaking in the warm waters of hot spring, and making a wish at a candle fairytale festival in the shrine at night – isn’t it a formula of an ideal winter vacation?
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Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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