With over fifty years of history, the Happo One Ski Resort’s annual Fire Festival is a huge event in the Hakuba area. Every year locals carry on the tradition of torch runs, a massive bonfire, taiko drumming, beautiful fireworks, lottery giveaways and did we mention lots and lots of free hot sake. People travel into Nagano every year just for this event so don’t miss out on what Hakuba’s Happo One Ski Resort has to offer. The Fire Festival is a great way to take in some Japanese culture while enjoying the slopes here in Nagano.
February 20th, 2020 | by Jared Kubokawa
By far the biggest event in February is the Happo One Ski Resort Fire Festival which happens every year on the slopes of Nakiyama―the southernmost section of the nearly 500 acres of on-piste terrain at Happo One. Starting at 7:00pm, make your way over to the base of Nakiyama to enter your name into the lucky draw for your chance to win free prizes, then grab a glass of free hot Hakuba sake and local delicacies such as tonjiru (pork stew), grilled mochi (sweet rice cakes) and nozawana (locally-made pickles).
Soon the lights will come down and you’ll see the start of the long snake of fire-lit torches poking out in the dark distance like so many stars. The torch-run makes it’s way slowly down the slope to the waiting crowd below. As the skiers and snowboards Create an arched pathway of fire, two local children carry torches to the base of the enormous pyre and ignite an enormous bonfire as the organizers recite a prayer. This is always a highlight of the season and with a fifty-year history and a local Japanese mountain tradition here in Hakuba. The festival has truly begun.
With the massive fire roaring and warm sake in your stomach, prepare for the Hakuba Alps Taiko drumming group to begin. Make sure to get your video camera ready for this display of traditional Japanese drumming, a very theatrical and emotional performance. We recommend getting as close as you can to feel the booming bass of the drums rattle your chest―a truly moving experience.
Following the drumming group will be a Japanese cultural fire dance with many dancers dressed in full regalia. These dances tell stories of Japanese folklore and vary from year to year depending on the choreography and artistry. Another fantastic video and photo moment to share with your friends and family.
After the fire dancers finish, listen carefully to see if you have won any of the plethora of prizes in the lucky draw. It would also be a good time to grab another warm drink and find a good place to relax for the grand finale. As you look up into the clear winter sky―the first booms can be heard and suddenly beautiful blossoms dance in the air resembling cherry trees in bloom, the fireworks finale has arrived. Relax and take in the spectacular display of the festival’s special fireworks and know that this year you participated in the long tradition of the Happo One Ski Resort’s Fire Festival.
Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience at the fire festival. We hope you have a fantastic holiday from all of us here at Events Hakuba.
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