Hey guys! Since winter is coming soon, I’ll write about Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival. In case you’re interested, you can plan your trip from now on. Not to confuse with Kamakura, the coastal area in Kanagawa, this Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival refers to small igloo-like houses. The famous one probably is the Yokote Kamakura Festival in Akita. Akita is a little bit up in the north, but if you prefer to go somewhere closer, there’s a place around Tokyo where you can enjoy the Kamakura Festival.
If you had read my post here about Nasushiobara, probably you are familiar with Yunishigawa Onsen. It’s around 2-hour train ride from Nikko. The scenery is really green during the summer, but when winter comes, the lake and river become half-frozen.
From Yunishigawa Onsen station, you need to take a bus (680yen one trip) to reach the onsen town. This onsen town is really special because this town is established by the Taira clan (as known as Heikei) after they were defeated by the Minamoto clan. The Taira clan fled into the depth of mountain and began their life there. That’s why most of Ryokan in Yunishigawa Onsen are mostly from that Heian Period.
Yunishigawa Onsen area gets a lot of snow in winter, and around Late January to Early March (usually first week of March), they have this festival called Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival. Once you get off from the bus, you can see a lot of igloo-like houses in the city.
This snow house is called Kamakura and yes, you can go inside. Sometimes, they put a tatami or a folded-chair inside the Kamakura. It’s pretty sturdy and strong, I guess it’s safe to go inside there.
Not only that, the shops and restaurants also put a lot of interesting decorations.
The scenery is also quite different from when my last visit in summer. I really like winter, so I think that the winter scenery is prettier. It was so peaceful and you barely found any crowd outside.
Next to Honke Bankyuu Ryokan, you can find a bridge that could take you to the river. Be really careful when you’re going down to the river. It’s not really prohibited, but the snow can be quite thick.
That time, I did not stay at Honke Bankyuu. I stayed in another ryokan not far from there. It’s called Yunishigawakan Honkan (湯西川館本館). This place has a nice and clean room and an outdoor onsen as well. Even though the building is quite old, they still provide the best service to their guest. They provide us dinner and breakfast and after dinner, they also offered to take us to the Kamakura Exhibition at night.
Hotel: Yunishigawakan Honkan
83-2 Yunishigawa, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-2601
Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival
In the evening, the hotel took us to the Sawaguchi Kasenjiki (沢口河川敷) by bus. You might wonder, “why in the evening?”. In the evening, the Kamakura is illuminated around the town and the river. Thousands of small Kamakura were aligned and lit around the river and it was really pretty.
This river area is around 10-15 mins walk from the city center. You can walk there, but because it was in the evening, we rode with the hotel’s car. You can also see this place during the day, but I think the night view is prettier.
Actually, if you come to the river during the day, there’s a place next to the river where you can enjoy other activities such as snow slide and snow-shoeing. I tried the snow ride and it was so fun. You can try the slide by paying 500Yen.
Heike no Sato
The river and the mini Kamakura is really pretty, but actually the Kamakura Festival main event takes place in Heike no Sato. Heike no Sato is an open-air museum that exhibit the life during Heian Period. During Kamakura Festival, you can find a lot of big-sized Kamakura inside the museum.
These Kamakura is also unique because during the day, you can rent the Kamakura and have BBQ lunch inside the Kamakura. The rent fee is around 1000yen (rent fee only, you’ll need to pay for your food and drink separately). Bad news is.. you need to book in Japanese, so if you really want to experience the BBQ inside Kamakura, you can ask someone who speak Japanese to help you.
In the evening, you can’t rent the Kamakura for BBQ, but you can enjoy the illuminated Kamakura. Heike no Sato is around 5 minutes walk from Sawaguchi Kasenjiki (沢口河川敷). You’ll need to pay 200yen (if you go only in the evening) or you can buy a 1 day pass for 510yen (valid for entire day). The illumination starts from 5:30 to 9:00 PM.
Location: Heike no Sato
1042 Yunishikawa, Nikko 321-2601, Tochigi Prefecture
This Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival is recommended. I know there’re a lot of snow festival in Japan during the winter like the one in Sapporo or even the Kamakura Festival in Akita. However, the locations are usually a bit far. This Yunishigawa Kamakura festival is only within 2-3hours from Tokyo and yet it also has a stunning scenery.
On top of that, Yunishigawa is an onsen area. You can rest and relax in the Ryokan or in the hot spring and enjoy the festival too.
I think the only cons I can think about is:
- Transport (bus and train) is not a bit frequent. You need to check the schedule so you don’t miss your transport and waiting in cold.
- The Kamakura BBQ does not offer service in English, you need to ask someone who speaks Japanese to book it for you.
That aside, I recommend this place for your next travel destination.
That’s all for today’s post! See you in the next post and as usual, you comments are always loved <3