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)
PICK-UP & DROP-OFF WITHIN OTARI VILLAGE
We can pick you up and drop you off from any location within the village of Otari, such as your place of lodging, one of the three ski resorts located within the village (Tsugaike Kogen, Hakuba Norikura & Hakuba Cortina) or Otari's main train station - Minami Otari (on the JR Oito Line).
All ground transportation (whether by private car, taxi, train and/or bus) during the hours of the tour is included in the price.
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.
PICK-UP & DROP-OFF OUTSIDE OF OTARI VILLAGE
*If necessary or requested, it is possible to arrange pick-up and/or drop-off from several major hubs outside of Otari, specifically: Hakuba, Itoigawa, Omachi, Nagano & Matsumoto. However, please be aware that this will require extra time and incur additional fees. Please see our downloadable 'Extended Area Pick-Up & Drop-Off Policy' (PDF) for more details.
*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.
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.
For this tour to operate at the listed price, we require a minimum of 2 persons.
Group size will be limited to a maximum of 4 persons.
If you are interested in booking as a private tour for one person, or a group larger than four please contact us for a price quote.
WHAT TO BRING
WARM CLOTHING: The festival will be held outside, in the evening - so it is necessary to dress warmly.
For your convenience and ours, bookings are made through our online booking platform by clicking on the 'BOOK' button below and following the steps presented: (1) Choose a start time/date (2) Fill out the required information (3) Enter a coupon code (if applicable) (4) Complete your booking by clicking on the 'Book It' button.
Upon confirmation of your booking, we will generate and send (an) online invoice(s) to you through PayPal, in accordance with the terms of our Deposit & Payment Policy for this tour type [1 & 1/2 Day Fixed & Flex-Departure Tours]. For more detailed information, head to our 'BOOKING' page and view/download our full Booking Policy.
Mix with Locals at a Traditional Cultural Event
February 6th, 2021
¥5,000 per person
If you would like to contact us to ask questions, receive more information, or inquire about booking this trip, please either connect with us directly using the chat feature located on the bottom right of your screen, or submit an inquiry through the contact form below. We are looking forward to hearing from you!