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Large Bonfires Draw Crowds to Katsuyama

Posted By on Mar 14, 2014



As the sun set and the street music livened the atmosphere, the excitement grew for Sunday night’s bonfire event. Prior to 8:30PM, visitors were instructed to deposit charms to burn, which were later scattered among the multiple fire pits. Long bamboo sticks with square pink mochi on the end could be purchased, too, but were sold in limited quantities. Only those who purchased as early as possible were able to walk away with mochi. The mochi was cooked later over the bonfires and consumed for luck.


Like most festivals in Japan, food stalls, and booths with children’s games were set up along several streets. Everything from grilled meat skewers to chocolate-covered bananas to kebabs (a modern staple of festivals) could be purchased. Among the stalls were large constructed stages filled with instrumentalists and performers. Children, adolescents, and adults played on drums, sang, and danced to traditional songs while dressed in yukata. The women had their hair beautifully done up with flowers as adornments. Nearby, the local sake brewer, Ippongi, served free sake and held an open house during the day.


These are the sights, smells, and sounds of Katsuyama’s Sagicho Festival, held annually. Katsuyama is located in Fukui prefeture along the Sea of Japan. It is mostly known for its ski resort, Ski Jam, but is also lovely for camping during the summer months. The bonfire event described here is famous in Katsuyama and Fukui. The burning of New Year’s decorations is called shimekazari and is joined by participants from all over.  The two day festival lasts from morning to night on Saturday and Sunday and ends in the shimekazari. Despite the cold mountain air, which is significantly colder than elsewhere in Fukui, visitors can stay warm by the giant fires (and those of drinking age can enjoy warm sake, too).

Sagicho is over for this year, but since it’s an annual event, why not swing by next year? Mochi may not be as delicate as marshmallows, but who can resist roasting food over large fires?

[Post by Nadia]


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