Yokote kamakura festival has been celebrated by locals of Akita for more than 400 years. This is a famous winter tradition of Akita prefecture, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The festival is held every year on February 15 and 16 in the city of Yokote, located in southeastern part of Akita prefecture.

The more you read about this festival the more you would be interested in visiting this unique winter destination of Japan. According to my own experience, the festival is not just an ordinary one but something you really want to explore yourself and with others.

Kamakura – the snow huts. Photo Credit: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization.

People living in Akita, are really proud of the natural wonder of Yamagata which is known as Zao Snow Monsters. On the other hand, the prefecture is boastful with those Kamakura including the tiny ones. Here kamakura means igloo-like structures/houses or simply snow huts.

The festival brings a lot joys and inspire us to be harmonious and peaceful. One can definitely enjoy the whole festival viewing a lot of kamakura, eating rice cakes (mochi) and drinking Japanese warm sweets sake (amazake). Let’s find more about the festival and give you a clear view of it so that you could find some inspirations.

The Snow Huts

Kamakura on the grounds of Yokote Castle, Yokote City. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The 400 years tradition that has been followed by the inhabitants of Akita could proud of it as much as you proud of yourself for achieving something very special in the past. What’s the main feature of this festival? It is the snow huts or so called igloo-like houses. Zoo is meaningless without the variety of animal species, so is the Yokote Kamakura Festival without the snow huts.

Before I had visited this festival for the very first time of my life, I was not a big fan of it, was I? To be honest with you, I was not until I experienced the whole festival myself especially the atmosphere inside the snow huts. Different things make different people happy, don’t they? You may like the atmosphere outside the snow huts where miniature kamakuras are light up with candle. It is picturesque and more importantly freezing.

It is held every year on February 15 and February 16 from 18:00 to 21:00. It is said that more than 100 Kamakuras are built across the city prior to the festival days including countless miniature kamakura. Each Kamakura is about 1.5 meters wide and 2 meters tall and built entirely from compacted snow which is then later hollowed out. A small entrance is made to get access to a wide space inside to explore the hidden beauty of kamakura.

A single kamakura snow hut could hold up to about 4-6 people but there are some that even could provide a lot of spaces inside. The floors are covered with mats and to make the huts more attractive at the darkness light bulbs are hung inside. I have seen that each kamakura has a snow alter which was dedicated to the water deity, to whom people pray for ample water, family members safety, success in life and abundant harvest.

The Spots where Kamakura are seen across the City

Small snow huts (Kamakuras). Photo Credit: Akita Tourism Federation.

We often remind of the city Yokote for its excessive snowfall in the winter, and of course for the Kamakura matsuri (festival). I stayed few nights at Yokote in winter, where I had to experience that 30 centimeter of snow has fallen overnight.

After I got up from my bad I took a morning stroll out there, I saw snow was everywhere including the riverside of Yokote River. In fact, Yokote riversides get illuminated by the candle light of little kamakuras. Hundreds of small huts could make the area is one of the most beautiful photogenic places in Japan during winter.

Near the JR Yokote Station, you can spot few kamakuras that are built prior to the festival just to give you a fantastic atmosphere. It welcomes you to the main festival arena for sure!

Yokote Castle, the symbol of Yokote sparkles with those beautiful snow huts during the festival. Average size kamakura snow huts as well as tiny ones can be found on its grounds. Besides, at Minami elementary school, I have seen children were playing with snow and riding on snow slides. I felt like, I should have joined in but I did not want to interrupt them so I just left them alone. You can experience beautiful snow sculptures and mini snow huts there.

The Kamakurakan Hall which is a kind of small museum, preserves some kamakura or snow huts in a small sized -10 Degree Celsius room all year round. If you visit this landmark in the summer, please wear a jacket before you enter the room. Nearby areas of the hall are covered by beautiful line kamakura, snow sculptures and street food stalls.

From these stalls you can buy and eat famous Yokote Yakisoba. That’s very delicious and you would probably buy more after eating one. There is a little beautiful park near the hall called Doro Koen Park where you could see how the snow huts are made, you may take part of it if you want.

“Please come inside and worship the God of Water”

A kamakura! Photo Credit: Chris Lewis at Flickr.

When you plan on exploring the festival venue and take a clear view of each kamakura, and you may hear this message “please come inside our kamakura and worship the god of water”. It is kind of an invitation offered by the groups of local children and teens who look after each of their own kamakuras and work as hosts and hostesses. It is hard to ignore such a cute invitation, therefore get in and have some fun with them.

They are really hospitable and offer you to eat rice cakes (mochi) and non alcoholic sweet sake (amazake). In return, you will have to make an offer to the god of water at the altar. When you get in a kamakura, please just make sure that you take off your shoes and sit comfortably. There is no rush, take your time and enjoy.

You do have the right to go beyond your own imagination, though, and this festival is the right place to do so. You could have great conversation with those children and share your opinion how you really think of the festival. They would be very pleased to answer any questions you ask to them regarding the festival.

How to get to Yokote Kamakura Festival?

akita_shinkansen_japan
Akita Shinkansen – Bullet Train. Photo Credit: Eiichi Kimura at Flickr.

Access to Yokote kamakura festival area from Tokyo is possible by The Akita Shinkansen (Bullet Train). It is super-fast, punctual and reliable. You have to get off at Omagari Station. From there, you take a local train to Yokote Station. The rides are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Please note Yokote and Omagari stations are connected by hourly local trains along the JR Ou Line. Check out the timetable of JR Shinkansen here. You can also get to Yokote Station from Kitakami Station by local train on the the JR Kitakami Line.

Where to Stay in Akita and Yokote?

I am very lucky to have friends of mine who are living most of the major cities of Japan. I have a friend who is studying in Akita International University. He has rented a room from an apartment owner. When I came to Akita to see the festival, I stayed in his room for 2 nights. In fact, he we discovered the festival together, we had fun a lot. However, I did not need to stay in a hotel or guest houses around Akita or Yokote. But I want to share some hotels where you could stay in.

  1. Hotel Pearl City Akita Omachi
  2. Route Inn Grantia Akita Spa Resort
  3. Comfort Akita Hotel
  4. Akita View Hotel
  5. Albert Hotel Akita
  6. Quad Inn Yokote
  7. Hotel Route-Inn Yokote Inter
  8. Hotel Wellness Yokoteji

Yokote Kamakura Festival is a very friendly and inviting yearly winter event. Akita prefecture itself is blessed with beautiful nature year-round. Here in this post, you just discovered a part Akita’s stunning winter nature. There is more to share about the natural beauty of Akita prefecture, but as winter is about to roll around, I think this article would help you to realize and imagine the winter tradition of Yokote city. Thanks for reading.