Feb 22, 2012

2012 Tazawako Kogen Snow Festival [Highlight]

The 2012 Tazawako Kogen Snow Festival took place over the weekend, February 17 – 19 at Tazawako Ski Area. Despite the uneasy weather, many people visited from far cities and enjoyed the last snow festival in Semboku City!

Let’s remember this year’s event in the photos. The followings are the highlights of each day:

Friday, February 17th

At 17:00 – The festival was started with a memorable ceremony. This year was the first held after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. To remind us of such memorable occurrence that united us all in Tohoku, a number of candles were lit in a shape of Tohoku.

Candle Lanterns in shape of Tohoku and a word of Kizuna ("Solidarity")
The center circle is our Lake Tazawa!
Hand-made with recycled cans with wishes of local residents and Miyagi students.

"Tohoku Recovery", "World Peace"

Each lantern was hand-made with recycled aluminum can by the hands of local people and Tohoku Gakuin Junior High School students from Miyagi Prefecture. They embedded special messages, especially related to the Tohoku area’s recovery and reconstruction. The Junior High School Students, later, released their kamifusen balloons with their wishes written to reaching for the sky. 

We couldn’t help but felt personal as a member of the Tohoku community!

At 18:00 – At the stage, the lighting ceremony was held, at which the snow sculptors were awarded. Also, free sake and amasake were given to the guests to commemorate the annual event.

These snowmen will be shown for 2 months on
NHK Educational Channel's popular program, Nihongo-de-Asobo
The first place was a team of local green tourism organization, Fureai Kyogikai.
The illuminated snow castle looked just like out of a fantasy world! Very beautiful!

From 18:00 to 21:00 – Food tents were open with lots of warm and delicious foods. These tents were open through the 3-day event.

Many different types of foods:
Bear soup, Stone-baked Sweet Potatoes, Spiral-shaped fried potatoes,
broiled Japanese char, Akita's signature Kiritanpo,
"Tornado sausages", Takoyaki, Yakitori, Spicy ramen noodle soup, and lottery for prizes!

Saturday, February 18th

At 13:00 – Treasure Hunt in the Snow was held for the daytime attraction! The rule was pretty simple: You choose a rope and pull when it is cued. Your treasure ranged from a pair hotel ticket, a buffet ticket, bathing powder packets, candies, and beers (lucky if you are an adult)! Not only the children but also adults participated in the game and had a great time!

The golden kunimasu fish is the first prize -- a pair hotel ticket at Kyukamura Nyuto Onsenkyo

Meanwhile, near the food tents, Tazawako Ski School gave a surprise mochi-pounding activity! Steamed sweet rice was pounded with traditional wooden mallet and mortar. This practice has been less commonly seen in Japan, so that many people gathered to catch a glimpse and participate in the pounding! After that, the delicious (really, mouthwatering just to think of it.) fresh mochi cakes were served in three different styles: kinako (soy bean powder), anko (red bean paste), and in a soup.

Mochi-Pounding was demonstrated.

Very soft and delicious -- Mochi with kinako (top), in soup (left) and anko (right).

At 18:00 – The evening ceremony started with a performance of Tazawako Ryujin Taiko.

Tazawako Ryujin Daiko Performance

Shortly after, the Tohoku-shaped lanterns were lit as the previous night, and sake and amazake were given to the guests. Meanwhile, Two of the traditional snow festivals in Semboku City were demonstrated. This was a rare opportunity for the visitors to see and participate in the mini-version of the traditional festivals held at different locations and days.

Kakundate Town's Hiburikamakura

Nishiki's Kamifusen

At 19:30 – Hinowa-kuguri (fire ring performance) were held by professional demonstrators and thrilled the audience.

Hinowa-Kuguri (Fire-Ring) Demonstration

Another trademark attraction of the festival is Taimatsu-kasso, a march of skiers with torches in hands, was held on the steepest Kuromori slope. This year was especially meaningful – instead of simply coming down the slope, the torches prepared in the shape of a kanji character was lit one by one. In a minute, the fire revealed a symbolic word of the past year – kizuna, meaning “solidarity,” that was used by many in hopes of Japan’s recovery.

Kizuna means Solidarity
At 20:10 – Fireworks show in the snow is the trademark of Tazawako Kogen Snow Festival. This has been what many people visit there for: Colors of fireworks are even brighter in the crisp, freezing air. The fireworks are crafted by an award-winning company in Omagari City.

Fireworks in the snow!

Sunday, February 19th

Although Day 3 is almost half-day, there were two main attractions held for family visitors.

Around noon, a rare sight of all 9 different local characters all together was on stage.  The 9 characters came from areas around Semboku City. From left, the Omotenashi 3 Brothers (Fukainda, Iyasunda, Nukuinda), Nairikkun, O-Umechan, Tsutsudon (from Daisen City), Takkochan, Donpan-Jiccha, and Sugicchi.

At 13:00 -- Treasure hunt in the snow took place as the previous day, in which many adults participated and found some treasures! Later, at 14:00, there was a stage performance of Chojin Neiga, which welcomed many kids and alike to the site. Their humorous plot entertained us all – as usual!

Tazawako Kogen Snow Festival takes place annually in late February!

This signals the end of snow festivals in Semboku City.

What’s coming next? – Spring!

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