What is Saga International Balloon Fiesta?
Every year at the beginning of November, Saga becomes the site of the Saga International Balloon Fiesta. Held just outside Saga City, this festival now attracts people from all over the world and is the biggest event for Saga prefecture.
The hot air balloon festival started in 1978 in Fukuoka Prefecture, but was moved to Saga from 1980 as there was more space available. It has grown considerably since then, with ballooning teams coming from all over and many local people volunteering to help. For a short time, the quiet countryside of Saga becomes an exciting international community.
Saga’s 2016 World Hot Air Balloon Championship will be held from October 28th to November 6th, so for 2016 it will be even bigger than usual.
How can we enjoy Saga International Balloon Fiesta?
The Balloon Festival is held from October 30th to November 4th every year. It coincides with Karatsu Kunchi, another big festival in Saga, making these few days the busiest and most exciting of the year. The competition site is just outside Saga City where a special train station “Balloon Saga” opens for the duration of the festival. This station is right by the festival which allows for quick and easy access. Entry is free, and as well as being able to view the balloons there are other attractions. A variety of stalls selling food and gifts are available, as well as local produce you can sample and buy. Eating areas are available if you plan to stop for lunch and you can try specialties like Sasebo Burger, usually not available in Saga City.
The festival opens with the start of Saga’s Light Fantasy – a display of lights around the city which stay up until around mid January. A parade is held at this opening where the balloon pilots join and light up their burners. Held at night, this is a stunning display with a great atmosphere as people from Saga gather to celebrate their biggest event of the year beginning.
What time is the best to go?
The best time to see the hot air balloons is early in the morning as they take off. The balloons are reflected in the surface of the Kase River giving some amazing views. Many consider this well worth the early wakeup call! Weather conditions can affect the competition however, with displays being postponed due to wind and rain.
Many unique designs of balloons can be viewed, like animals and characters like Tom and Jerry. The festival closes with a light show. The balloons stay on the ground and light up in sequences to music.
The Saga Balloon Festival is a great chance to see some great sights as well as experience the fun and exciting atmosphere of Saga’s biggest festival. With the World Championship this year it is set to be even bigger than usual.
|Name||Saga International Balloon Fiesta|
|Address||Kasemachi Oaza Ogino, Saga, Saga Prefecture 840-0864, Japan|
|Access||[map]Kasemachi Oaza Ogino, Saga, Saga Prefecture 840-0864, Japan[/map]|
|Opening Hours||October 28th – November 6th, 2016|