Kamakura is a Lunar New Year festival held sometime in January or February in Akita prefecture. Kamakura is a kind of small igloo made from compacted snow with a small opening and a larger space inside. This festival is from the Tohoku region, but its origins are unclear.
The contents of the festival differ according to region. In Rokugo, Akita, a 'blue-bamboo battle' is held. On the other hand, in Yokote, children make an altar inside the kakamura as a dedication to a god of water inside, while adults visit to pay money to the god and are served sweet sake and rice cakes.
'Bamboo battle' means driving birds away and praying for bumper crops. The dedications to the water god are also a way to pray for bumper crops.
The kamakura igloos have spread all over Japan as an attractive winter display loved by both children and adults.
If you pass along Tenjin beach toward the mouth of the Nagase River in midwinter, you will see the phenomenon of natural ice art.
Water from Inawashiro Lake is blown by very strong westerly winds onto trees near the beach where it freezes in splash formations, a phenomenon that is very rare in Japan. This 'splash ice' is as beautiful as 'silver frost' and you will never be tired of seeing it.
The splashes sometimes make ice formations up to five meters long. The wind is so strong that windbreak forests have been planted along Tenjin beach. Strong cold waves sometimes make the splash ice around the trees. You can see this ice along a 100m area where there are no anti-erosion concrete blocks.
Moreover, you can see various other changing ice formations such as drift ice and ice upheavals that are said to mark the passing of deities.
Shakadake mountain is located in Hita, Oita Prefecture. In January and February, the hoarfrost on the mountain is absolutely beautiful and has become a winter specialty of Shakadake.
Shakadake is the dominant peak in the Tsue mountain range. The observatory on Shakadake is positioned at an altitude of 1230m and is the highest in Oita Prefecture. Because of this, it has a radar dome installed by the Ministry of Construction, along with three radio relay towers for the Meteorological Agency, the Defense Agency and for Oita Prefecture.
In Soma Village Mountain Stream Park, the sight of pure white peaks soaring majestically in the deep blue sky during the hoarfrost season can only be described as astounding and phenomenal. On fine days, the keen blue sky spreads endlessly, and hoarfrost in the shape of flowers blooms all over the trees of the mountain, resulting in a splendid view. The hoarfrost of Shakadake is nature's kaleidoscope, and invites spectators into a different, enchanting world.
Gozaishodake is a mountain located between Komono in Mie Prefecture and Higashioumi in Saga Prefecture. At 1212m, it is the highest peak in the Suzuka mountains.
Gozaishodake is covered in precipitous and jagged rocks, and is lush with all kinds of changing, gorgeous azalea flowers. This mountain is an excellent place to visit in any season. It has all sorts of activities on offer: viewing the beautiful azaleas, cherry blossoms, and other plants in spring; retreating from the heat in summer; hiking in autumn; and skiing, mountain climbing and viewing the snow-covered trees in winter.
On the other hand, intense, extreme sports can be enjoyed as well. Tounaiheki is a mecca for rock climbers. In winter, ice climbers can try the frozen waterfalls and icy cliffs. The summit used to have the world's only center for the study of Japan's kamoshika (mountain goat), but it unfortunately closed in 2006.
What is so captivating about Gozaishodake, the mountain that represents Suzuka, is that it has similar features and aspects to the Alps. Majestic and mind-blowing are the only apt words for the dramatic appearance of Tounaiheki and Daikanpeki.
A high-speed ship called the 'Rio Grande' cruises between Otsu on the south side of Lake Biwa, to Nagahama in the north. It is also known as the 'snow-appreciation ship' because in winter, beautiful views of Lake Biwa can be enjoyed.
Winter cruises are held at the same time as the Nagahama Bonsai Apricot Exhibition, a feature of early spring on Lake Biwa, and are available until the beginning of March (the day before the opening of Lake Biwa).
On 5th May, 1980, Shiga Prefecture and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil established a sister relationship because both cities feature lakes: Biwa Lake in Japan and Lake Pattos in Brazil. At that time, the cruise ship was named Rio Grande, which means 'big river'.
The ship is warm inside and there are comfortable seats for 2-8 persons on the first and second decks. The beautiful winter scenery includes views of the snowy lake. A commentary is also given on the fish, birds, history and specialties of Lake Biwa.
It took about two hours to cruise one-way, including various stops along the way. You can have a leisurely time and stay in hotels near the lake or take the opportunity to go to other events.
Junitaki Waterfall consists of 12 (juni) stages, and is fed by the waters of the headstream of the Aizawa River. It is near the town of Hirata, in Higashida-gun, Yamagata prefecture. It is known as one of the three major waterfalls of Akumi.
The waterfall is situated at the western foot of Mt. Kyogakura and is about 30m high. Each of the 12 stages has a name, such as 'Long-Nosed Goblin (Tengu) Waterfall', 'Snake Waterfall' and 'Riverbank Waterfall'.
Since ancient times, waterfalls have been used as ascetic training places for esoteric Buddhists, who believe that exposure to the water helps to purify the mind and body and enable them to gain spiritual power. Deities like Fudo or Benten are often found enshrined near waterfalls.
In autumn, the leaves around Junitaki turn red, and the combination of their varying colors is very beautiful. In winter, there is a feeling of austerity as the water flows continuously surrounded by white snow.
Yamagata prefecture has about 230 or 10% of all the waterfalls in Japan, making it the prefecture with the highest number of waterfalls in the country.
The Tateyama Mountain Range (Renpo) is a group of mountains that are an average of 3000 meters high. Tateyama-renpo is the all-inclusive term for the mountain range to the west of the Kokubu River in the Northern Alps. The southern side goes as far as Mount Kitanomata and Mount Kurobegoro, which is situated on the edge of Gifu prefecture. Moreover, the northern and southern ranges are linked to Mount Mitsumatarenge.
The fantastic alpine scenery can be enjoyed from trains, alpine buses, trolley buses, cable cars and cableways. There is an endless stream of visitors throughout the year.
In spring, the Tateyama Kokubu alpine route is opened and anyone can enjoy the 20m-high walls of snow lining it. In summer, the climate is cooler than in the plains and is perfect for trekking and hiking. At this time, the lake reflects the magnificent view of the ranges. In autumn, the fall foliage is beautiful. In winter, the ranges turn completely white and it is the most beautiful period of the year here. In late November, the sight of the first snow is beautiful.
Ice trees can be seen in winter at the Zao Onsen Ski Area. At that time, the hills of the Ou Mountains are covered with snow. Many ice trees, standing at twice the height of a man, appear like 'shrimp tails'. Skiers on the slopes glide between the ice trees.
Zao is the only place in the world where ice trees can be seen. Certain conditions are necessary for them to appear:
*a place where aiophyllous coniferous trees, such as pines, grow;
*strong seasonal winds of a low-temperature that blow from the same direction so that, as cloud droplets strike the trees' branches and leaves, they freeze immediately, in a process called 'ice coating';
*the snowfall should not be too much nor too little.
From late January to late February, the ice trees are illuminated, producing a fantastic atmosphere.