Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nagaoka Snow Festival

One interesting fact about Japan is that they have various kinds of festival throughout the year. There is hanami (sakura sight-seeing) in the spring, hanabi (fireworks festival) during the summer and momijigari (maple leaves sight-seeing) when it is autumn. Come winter, there will be skiing, snow boarding and snow festivals throughout the country, especially in the northern region where it snows at a large scale.
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Over the couple of days during the last weekend, there was a snow festival in Nagaoka. They called it 長岡雪しか祭り (Nagaoka Yukishika Matsuri), which means Nagaoka Snow Festival. The weather suited the theme of the festivals itself as it was snowing heavily for the whole day. However, when it snows too much, then it will make it unconvenient for people to mobile around the festival site. The matter was made even worse as I went there wearing my sneakers and not my pair of boots; I was practically walking in a soaked socks all day long.
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Since I know I was almost wet the whole body, I thought of why not I have some fun with the soft mountain of snow. While I was walking in one part of the area which is covered with a large amount of snow, I deliberately made my whole body fall onto the snow. Almost one-third of my body was buried in the snow but I didn't get to eat any snow.
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Doing free-fall on the snow however, was not the main reason that made me went to the snow festival. I was there for this.
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Well, it wasn't exactly to have picture taken with the famous Japanese hero. Apparently, there was an Ultraman show in the main hall, which has an interesting name - Hive Nagaoka. This is the same hall in which I experienced an earthquake.
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That Ultraman show aside, there were some other performances as well. Traditional song by some well-known local singer, which I have no idea whatsoever who she is. Not to say that I have interest in classical music, but hearing to her singing that day made me had some eerie feeling, as if I was watching a Japanese horror movie.
Nevertheless, it got better afterwards.
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It was some drum performances by a group of students, comprising of those from secondary school and high school.
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The drums, or taiko as how it is called in Japanese, are nothing different from what we normally see back home during Chinese New Year celebrations. They come in several shapes and sizes, depending on what kind of beat or tempo they want it to be. There were four songs altogether, one each to depict every season of the year.
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When it got dark later that day, there was another drum performance by a different group, this time in the middle of a park called Music Forest with the snow still falling heavily outside.
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Back to the main hall, besides the stage performances, there were stalls being set up. Most of them sold local products like fresh vegetables and snacks while the rest were food stalls. Nothing really caught my eye, but one stall was selling some bun-like thing. It looks like paos and I decided to give it a try. The ingredients inside was some kind of seaweed but I wasn't very sure myself of its name.
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Suffice to say that it didn't suit my taste bud.
What I have explained above doesn't seem to have any relation to a snow festival, isn't? I shall show better stuff from now on, which are of some snow sculptures. The first one is of a puppy, which is the main character of the recently released movie entitled Mari-to koinu. It was adapted from a real story about a puppy who saved the life of the entire family members of its owner during the huge earthquake that occured in Niigata four years ago.
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As for the second one, I couldn't make of what it was. Personally, these snow sculptures is nothing when you compare to those in the annual snow festival in Hokkaido, but at least this offerred some consolation for someone who couldn't afford to make the trip all the way there like me.
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Besides the two huge snow sculptures, there were some activities for the kids as well. They use huge tyre for the kids to slide down the slopes made of snow. If it wasn't the fact that only kids are allowed to get onto that slide, I would have tried it myself.
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They even provided a less steep slope for toddlers to join the fun as well.
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There were a session called 空からの餅 (Sorakara-no mochi) or "snacks from the sky".
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They used two tractors to lift up a few people about 15 meters above the ground and from there, they will throw various kinds of snacks such as sweets, rice cake and groundnuts. The children must be the one who had the most fun as much as the adults from this thing. I joined in the hustling as well. While each of the kids went back with at least a bag full of snacks, here is what I got.
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Even having such height, the kids were way better off in catching snacks from the sky than me.


Anonymous said...

ya true... this is like the ciplak version of sapporo yuki matsuri.

everything is so white... so hard to see...

and the place looks so depressing now... wonder why people still live there...

vincent said...

ehhh..but for me,the sceneries are stunning!

calvin said...

@ kok hong:
it was way more ciplak than you could ever think of. honestly, i never expected to see that two sculptures there as i thought only sapporo has those.

anyway, it was not as bad as you think. it doesn't snow that bad everyday here =)

calvin said...

@ vincent:
perhaps the first few times you will still find it nice. but when you stay in such region for some time already, you will slowly get bored with it >.<

Crabbed!! said...

Dude...I was in Nagaoka last Saturday!! It was snowing heavily and I almost got frost bite on my ass, but I'm SO LOOKING FORWARD TO LIVING THERE!!!

Anyway, was there looking for apartments to of the sempai gave me a ride around with his car, but got into an accident later that day. Pity him...

calvin said...

it looks like you are really eager to come here as soon as possible. unfortunately for you, you came on the wrong day as the weather last weekend was kinda bad. but you sure going to enjoy the life here. looking forward to seeing you soon =)

i reckon that that accident was caused by the slippery roads, no?

pinksterz said...


calvin said...

@ pinksterz:
i'm just being nice to the kids by giving them the chance to grab their snacks =D

février said...

sounds so fun and so yummy *wants to catch snacks too* T_T i wanna go japaaaaaaaan.

calvin said...

@ beve:
while you are yearning to come here, i have been longing to visit uk since i was young. i wonder whether i will ever get the chance to be there one day.

Unknown said...

Wow is the snow usually this heavy?? I'll be going to Nagaoka soon and now I'm considering purchasing snowpants...

calvin said...

@ Gabriel C:
Yes, the peak is usually in January and February. The geographical location of Nagaoka in the northern region of Japan gives it a lot of snowfall every winter.

Depending on how long you will be in Nagaoka, you might wanna consider getting one ;)