An important traditional aspect of the region, Kamakura in the Tohoku refer to snow huts, differing in sizes and construction. Akita Prefecture alone is home to three different types of festivals that celebrate the culture of these little snow domiciles. In Northern Tohoku, the Rokugo Kamakura Festival where bamboo pole fights are held, is known as one of Japan’s more dangerous “bizarre festivals.” Located inland in the Northern Tohoku lies Kakunodate town. Considered to be one of Japan’s “little Kyoto”, you can observe the Hiburi Kamakura Festival with participants all riled up, swinging fireballs made from straw in gigantic rings around themselves. This act is a symbol of prayer for good health.

Kakunodate’s Hiburi Kamakura

The kinds of Kamakura that most people are familiar with can be seen in Yokote City, which is also home to a Kamakura festival that has been practiced for over 450 years. During ancient times, the people of the region would build their snow huts close to wells, making offerings to water deities. Children in the past also used to play near these areas. Presently, these Kamakuras are home to shrines. Visitors are allowed to make supplications there, and children can go into the snow huts to drink delicious amazake (甘酒 , a sweet non-alcoholic rice drink) and eat yakimochi (焼餅 , roasted sticky rice cakes). After seeing how much the lives of the locals are built around the Kamakura, one can’t help but acknowledge its divine presence and respect the Japanese people’s appreciation for the surrounding nature.

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