Chichibu Yomatsuri or Chichibu Night Festival is held on 2-3 December at the Chichibu Shrine at Chichibu, Japan. It is considered as one of Japan’s top three festivals that feature floats, the others being Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and the Takayama Matsuri. From the three festivals, Chichibu Yomatsuri is the only one that is held in winter. In 2016, Chichibu Yomatsuri has been registered as a world cultural heritage event.
During Chichibu Yomatsuri, the streets of Chichibu are lined with stands selling festival foods such as yakitori (grilled chicken on sticks), takoyaki (ball shaped Japanese pancakes with a chunk of octopus in the center), watame or cotton candy, yakisoba (fried Japanese soba), amazake (sweet wine rice) and many more.
The main events of Chichibu Yomatsuri takes place on 3 December. In the afternoon and early evening, six giant floats are displayed in their respective neighborhoods and at Chichibu Shrine, before they are being pulled by people through the streets of Chichibu towards the city hall from around 19:00. The floats are ornately decorated with lanterns, tapestries and gilded wood carvings, and are accompanied with drum and flute music.
The most spectacular sight is when the floats are pulled up a slope known as Dangozaka using only ropes and human power. Each float weighs 10-20 ton, so pulling them up Dangozaka really representing a serious physical challenge!
After the floats have been successfully pulled up Dangozaka and lined up in front of Chichibu city hall, Chichibu Yomatsuri is closed with a firework display that lasts for 2.5 hours, starting on 19:30 and ending on 22:00. The firework display can be seen from many places around town. After that, festival goers can catch the last trains to Tokyo, around 90 minutes from Chichibu, because Chichibu itself has only limited accommodation options.
If you are in Japan on 2 or 3 December, make sure to head to Chichibu to join the Yomatsuri! Just remember to arm yourself with warm clothes!
How about you? Have you ever been to Chichibu Yomatsuri? Tell us!