2019-11-20 02:30 KST  
  RSS
Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
JapanFocus
Japanese Snow Lantern Festival
Brightening up the winter sky
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2009-02-23 12:06 (KST)   


Snow Lantern Festival of Hirosaki
©2009 D.Weber

Winters are long in Tohoku, the northern region of mainland Japan. Snow and ice are common fare there. A skier's boon but a common man's burden. In ages past before sports skiing and winter fashion, winter was something to be dreaded and suffered through. It is no wonder that a multitude of snow festivals dot the Tohoku region. These festivals are the locals' way of making winter seem a little less unfriendly and a little less bleak.

Hirosaki Castle
©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

One such festival takes place in Hirosaki in the Aomori Prefecture which is the northernmost area of the Tohoku region. Capitalizing on the beauty of winter, residents of Hirosaki create lanterns made completely made of snow in early February.

500 Snow Lanterns cover the grounds of Hirosaki Castle
©2009 D.Weber

A Snow Castle
©2009 D.Weber

Hirosaki Castle was built in the early 17th Century
©2009 D.Weber

The lanterns for the most part resemble the type of lantern found in Japanese gardens and shrines. There are hundreds of these spread through the grounds of Hirosaki Castle. Some of the snow lanterns however are rather avant-garde shaped with just a hint of the essence of a traditional stone lantern.

Avant-Garde Snow Lantern
©2009 D.Weber

Mickey Mouse Snow Lantern Shows Off Japanese Obsessive Love for all Things Disney
©2009 D.Weber

Where in the stone lanterns there would be empty spaces for the placing of candles, painted portraits are set. The portraits resemble closely that of Hirosaki's Neputa Festival in Early August. The Neputa Festival consists of large oval shaped floats with painted scenes from Japanese and Chinese stories.

@IMG9#
©2009 D.Weber

The Snow Lantern Festival's portraits depict the faces of Japanese women, samurai, and legendary Chinese heroes from the works of the Three Kingdoms and the Outlaws of the Marsh. In the evening, they are illuminated from within much in the same way the Neputa floats are.

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

While the Neputa Festival goes back centuries, the Snow Lantern Festival goes back only decades - three to be exact. The Festival started in 1977 as a way to bring the community together during the long cold winter. It has since become one of the five biggest snow festivals in the Tohoku area.

One of the few non-lantern structures to be seen at the festival
©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

Throughout the Festival, local volunteers patrol the grounds looking to repair the lanterns and clearing the pathways. They place the portraits on the lanterns and fasten them in place with short bamboo sticks. Across the old moat, dozens of small kamakura - or snow huts - are set up each with an individual candle.

A Volunteer Repairs a Snow Lantern
©2009 D.Weber

Three hundred miniature Kamakura snow huts dot the the bank of the castle moat
©2009 D.Weber

Hirosaki's Snow Lantern Festival may not be a major extravaganza like the Snow Festival a little further north in Sapporo but it has a pleasant charm of its own. The Snow Lantern Festival in this respect represents the Japanese character best - simple but elegant; the quintessential concept of Japanese wabi-sabi.

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

The only drawback to all this charm and elegance, however, is the music they choose to play in the background. Instead of playing traditional Japanese music particularly the guitar-like samisen which Hirosaki is known for, they play less than quality modern music that is a cross between old style Enka and modern pop music from mediocre artist without financial clout to sue the city for playing their music.

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

Music aside, the illuminated snow lanterns and the miniature kamakura snow huts with Hirosaki Castle as a backdrop make for a winter fairy-tale land.

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 D.Weber

©2009 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

Add to :  Add to Del.icio.usDel.icio.us |  Add to Digg this Digg  |  Add to reddit reddit |  Add to Y! MyWeb Y! MyWeb

Ronda Hauben
 
Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy
Michael Werbowski
 
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Michael Solis
 
Arizona's Immigration Bill and Korea
Yehonathan Tommer
 
Assassination in Dubai
[ESL/EFL Podcast] Saying No
Seventeenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev...
  [ESL/EFL] Talking About Change
  [ESL/ EFL Podcast] Personal Finances
  [ESL/EFL] Buying and Selling
How worried are you about the H1N1 influenza virus?
  Very worried
  Somewhat worried
  Not yet
  Not at all
    * Vote to see the result.   
KOREA WORLD SCI&TECH ART&LIFE ENTERTAINMENT SPORTS GLOBAL WATCH INTERVIEWS PODCASTS
  copyright 1999 - 2019 ohmynews all rights reserved. internews@ohmynews.com Tel:+82-2-733-5505,5595(ext.125) Fax:+82-2-733-5011,5077