Kamakura Festival

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Finally, the main event: the evening of the Kamakura Festival in Nikko. Night fell in a blue haze over the mountains, which was beautiful to watch from our room as we relaxed.

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We enjoyed tea and cookies on the amazing kotatsu, which is a small table over a light futon and heat source. It was so comfortable on the straw tatami mats!

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And then…our magnificent dinner appeared. It was a meal fit for kings, including udon noodles, tuna sashimi, amazing miso soup, smoked fish, pickled radishes, and tempura vegetables. It was lovely sitting on the floor to eat, but most of us couldn’t hold the traditional Japanese position of sitting on the shins for too long, so we crossed our legs. It was very relaxing!

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The karaoke machine was a hit!

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After dinner, it was time for the festival. There were hundreds of small snow igloos containing candles, it was a magical sight. This snow festival takes place in several locations around Japan during the winter. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, “this 400 year old festival is said to have its origins in the traditional event of returning New Year decorations to the gods by burning them, and also in the custom of children chasing away birds damaging crops. Inside the kamakura, an altar is set up to honor the water gods and to pray for plenty of clear water, while sake and rice cakes are offered to the gods.” (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/festival/kamakurasnow.html)

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Offerings of money were stuck right into the walls of the larger igloos.

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The atmosphere was surreal with the carefully designed lighting of each igloo. Even the trees were lit!

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Even the vending machines were held in the igloos! I was thankful for the opportunity to warm my hands with a hot coffee can.

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We had a lot of fun exploring each igloo, since every one contained something different. This one had a small sitting area inside, including a tatami mat!

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The most beautiful sight, however, was the array of candles in the main festival area. It was a spiritual experience to watch the flames glow across the landscape and eventually flicker out as snow melted into the candle holder. After being in the snow for several hours, we were definitely in the mood for the hot springs. Our trip to Nikko was a once in a lifetime sort of adventure.

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