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Yuzawa City is known for a heavy snowfall in the Tohoku region, the northern part of Japan. This mountainous region holds a winter festival to bring comfort to its inhabitants. At Yuzawa in Akita Prefecture, we celebrate Akita Inu, an especially cute Japanese dog breed, while surrounded by Temples and other snow sculptures for a weekend. Especially important since this year is the year of the dog!
Meet Cute Dogs, Perfect for Animal Lovers
The festival, which has a 400 year history, takes place annually on the second Saturday and Sunday of February. Groups of Akita Inu owners join this festival to walk with their dogs under the admiring eyes of children and parents. To my surprise, what I thought to be a breed of small dogs is actually a breed that includes all sizes and all hairs. As is common in icy regions such as this, dog have developed strong and bushy fur to face the intense winter. Throughout the day, visitors can enjoy watching many dogs walking around the event grounds, which filled me with a very warm feeling. A park is set up to let them run and create affinities. Not far from there, the Inukko Café allows owners to keep an eye on them.
As night comes, the place is illuminated with thousands of candles, giving this space a poetic charm. On Saturday evening, at 7:30 pm, a firework festival is held to bring more magic to the festival.
Beautiful Snow Sculptures
The festival focuses on showcasing local crafts from the Yuzawa region. Locals come with family or friends for lunch and a stroll, not to mention delicious local culinary specialties. The area is full of snow sculptures, each of them impressive in their own right, by their quality of execution. We walk among the statues of dogs, meant to intimidate thieves and protect the population, in front of magnificent temples. At the entrance to the festival, a temple was built in snow, where visitors can come to pray and pray for good fortune for them and their animals.
At the shopping arcade in Yuzawa, many snow temples and snow statues are displayed, giving us more excitement to join the snow festival!
Taste Local Specialties
As in all Japanese festivals, food is a must to try. The food stands are lined up and you can taste all kinds of specialties. Stop for a moment to taste Inaniwa Udon. These noodle have the distinction of being much finer than the udons in the Shikoku region. In the south, people knead dough with their feet (rest assured, the dough is carefully protected), while Inanuwa Udon noodles are made by kneaded the dough by hand. It is this important step of kneading which creates the chewy consistency, something between rubbery and sticky, of this famous udon. If you are interested in the experience, you can contact Sato Yosuke Shoten to make your own udon (reservation by phone).
How to Get There?
When you decide to visit Tohoku and witness its charms and the breathtaking scenery of the mountainous Yuzawa region you will first board the Shinkansen departing from Tokyo Station. The ride on board the Shinkansen is about 3 hours 15 minutes, you will then change to the local trains for 45 minutes.
From Tokyo Station, take the Komachi Shinkansen line towards Akita (Attention: this line requires a seat reservation). So it is better to plan your trip in advance. Get off at Omagari and take the JR Ou Line train to Yuzawa.
Another option is to fly and land directly at Akita Airport. From there, travel to Akita by bus, or take a taxi to Wada Station, and take the JR Ou Line train to Yuzawa. Renting a car can be very convenient for exploring the surroundings.
At Yuzawa Station, go to Yuzawa Station Tourist Office and you will receive a warm welcome from the incredibly kind staff informing you about the region. A free shuttle is set up during the festival, to drop you directly in front of the festival place. The bus operates every 30 minutes with a high traffic, so if you can, I encourage you to walk to the exhibition site, only a 20 minute walk. You will enjoy the traditional charm of the Japanese winterland.
If you are looking for a fabulous place to spend a night, I recommend the excellent ryokans with hot springs like Motoyu Kurabu in Oyasukyo Onsen.