1:00 to 8:30
Starts in: Otari*
Ends in: Otari*
Come along for an incredibly unique travel experience, and join us as we attend our local snow festival. This is a small community event that attracts exactly zero tourists, but what it lacks in notoriety and scale it more than makes up for in rural charm, authenticity, and the opportunity for unparalleled cultural immersion. And since we live locally, there won't be any awkwardness from showing up uninvited if you're with us. ;)
On this full-day tour that begins just after lunch, depending on weather conditions, we will start with a drive to a scenic overlook that offers excellent views of the Northern Alps, the village of Otari and numerous ski resorts of the Hakuba Valley. We will take some time to enjoy the views and snap some photos before moving on to our next destination, a history and mineral rich rejuvenating hot spring located deep in the mountains. Soak and relax at your leisure, and once you're fully refreshed - we'll take a small break for tea and sweets on the premises.
Afterwards we'll make our way to the festival grounds and have the opportunity to observe and even participate in karaoke as we chow down on the assortment of home cooking being served and shared by the festival goers. All the while final preparations for the evening's massive "bonfire"continue in the background. Calling it a bonfire, however, is much too simplistic as it is actually a traditional burning of New Years decorations and religious charms bought from temples and shrines and displayed throughout the previous year. The burning of these items is meant to send the people's prayers and wishes for health and happiness in the New Year to the heavens, enveloped in the upward wafting smoke.
Once the intensity of the fire begins to wane, branches laden with colorful clumps of "mochi" are passed out, and participants roast the mochi in the bonfire, much like marshmallows are roasted over a campfire, but with more mochi and a much larger fire - before eating them in a meaning-rich ritual.
For more information and videos of the event, check out our blog post from last year's festival.
IMAGE GALLERY (February, 2019)
Pickup and drop-off, as well as all ground transportation, by private car during the hours of the tour is included in the price.
*We can pick you up from your hotel in Otari, from Minami Otari Station, or directly from one of the three ski resorts in Otari village (Tsugaike Kogen, Hakuba Norikura & Hakuba Cortina). If requested, we are able to pick up and/or drop off from locations in Hakuba village as well, for a small additional fee. Please inquire for details.
ONSEN (HOT SPRING) ENTRY
We'll visit a secluded, atmospheric onsen deep in the countryside with nearly 500 years of history, in order to relax and warm our bodies before heading to the outdoor festival.
The festival will essentially be a gathering composed entirely of rural residents who don't speak English. Despite this, or maybe because of this, you can expect a warm welcome with lots of smiles and gestures to go along with attempts at communication - in other words, a real authentic travel experience. This is great, as communication earned through effort is the most rewarding kind. Yet, if you find yourself wanting to delve deeper into an exchange, we will gladly translate for you!
Dinner will come in the form of food prepared and shared by the community on the festival grounds before the bonfire. You can expect an assortment of homemade pickled vegetables, Japanese style curry and rice and even locally hunted deer or wild boar meat. Oh, and of course some sake.
*This is a one-day tour, so lodging is typically not required or included. However, should you like to spend a night in Otari before or after your tour, we can help you arrange a stay at a local lodge or guesthouse, or you may choose to stay with us at our 137-year old traditional Japanese home for an extra ¥3,500 yen per adult / ¥2,000 per child. We may be able to work out a discount if you help with the snow shoveling. : )
LUNCH, DRINKS & SNACKS
*No lunch, drinks or snacks or drinks are provided, so you will need to bring your own if you feel it is necessary. It is also recommended that you eat lunch prior to the start of the tour.
To operate at this price Hike + Bike Japans requires a minimum of 2 persons
The total group size will be limited to a maximum of 4 persons
WHAT TO BRING
WARM CLOTHING: The festival will be held outside, in the evening - so it is necessary to dress warmly.
If you would like to contact us to ask questions, receive more information, or inquire about booking this trip, please either mail us directly using our email address, or submit an inquiry through the contact form below. We are looking forward to hearing from you!