Every year in early December, the mountainous city of Chichibu holds one of the most famous float festivals in all of Japan. Historically dating back 2,000 years ago, this two-day festival lights up the night sky with hundreds of lanterns and a beautiful firework display.
If you missed the opportunity to try delicious, traditional Japanese festival food during the summer, here’s your second chance. Wander the booth-lined streets of the city and immerse yourself in the food and culture of Japan. Try the festival staples like yakisoba or okonomiyaki and countless other delectable options. Brace the cold weather by indulging in an additional treat and warm up with a cup of hot and sweet rice wine called amazake, a traditional drink dating back to A.D. 500. Once you have sated your appetite, you can begin searching for a comfortable spot to view the parade.
There are six floats which are incredibly detailed works of art. They are carefully handcrafted and decorated with tapestries, paintings, woodcarvings and rows of lanterns. These floats are completely man-powered and weigh approximately 10 to 20 tons each. With wheels made of wood, moving these massive structures calls for intense teamwork between dozens of people. It is an impressive sight to watch such beauty be pulled through the city with incredible dedication.
Eventually, make your way to City Hall where all the floats will begin to line up. From there, the floats will transform and wings will unfold to create a stage for traditional Japanese performances. Watch talented performers as they take part in traditional Japanese dances and Kabuki plays.
Finish the night off with the rare occurrence of fireworks outside of the summer months in Japan. Sip your amazake, listen to traditional taiko drums and flutes while you enjoy the impressive two-and-a-half hour firework display.
Photography credit: Adrian Uribe