Akita Prefecture, Japan

Kamakura Festival in Yokote

Once a year in Feb. the kamakura matsuri (snow house festival) is held in Akita-ken. Probably the most famous of these is in the town of Yokote. This is a celebration of winter where dozens of full-size kamakura are built for the 2-day festival. Traditionally, the children of Akita built kamakura and accepted a small donation for some food and drink, and conversation.

matsuri
The kamakura lined streets of Yokote

We arrived in Yokote before dark on Feb. 15. The festival is spread out and the several areas are indicated on the map received outside the station. There is a walking route that takes about 1 hour. There is also the occasional kamakura here and there along the route between the major areas. While some of the kamakura seem to be run by the city, it seemed that freelancers didn't miss an opportunity to build there own and accept donations.

prep
A man prepares a kamakura for guests and refuels the hibachi.

oidetanse-ko
An Akita boy urges passerby's to try some grilled mochi.

The Japanese spoken in Akita is so different that my Yamanashi friends don't even under stand it. This boy kept saying something which we guessed means "Here, please come and try some!". He was very persistent almost screaming at the top of his lungs. Later a woman came chasing after us to make sure we got a change to try the grill mochi. I accepted my second helping.

amazake
A couple keep amazake (sweet Japanese sake) warm over the fire.

We entered this kamakura for a rest on the way to the Yokote Castle. Looking inside the kamakura you will notice it is either lit with candles are even electricity in some cases. There is a small snow shelf in the back which contains a scroll with the name of the Japanese water god written in kanji. On the ground are mats and cushions and a hibachi in the center. The host usually serves amazake, grilled mochi (rice beaten into a paste), among other snacks like tofu or even sushi. Strangely enough this couple was not from Akita at all, but instead from Yamanashi's neighboring prefecture Shizuoka. They entered their name in a drawing and won the chance to "run" a kamakura during the festival. Apparently the city took care of all the particulars like building the kamakura and providing the amazake, the food, the fire, etc. They were very nice, and we chatted a while before moving on.