It is a festival called the Chichibu Yomatsuri(Night Festival), which has been registered as a world cultural heritage event in 2016 and has attracted many people from around the world.
This is also one of the 3 biggest Japanese Hikiyama festivals and a national significant folk cultural asset. It is a famous festival which about 0.4 million people’s visit.
I’ll introduce to you some highlights to see at the Chichibu Night Festival, regularly held for 300 years.
The schedule and time of the Chichibu Night Festival
What is the Chichibu Night Festival? When will it be held?
The Chichibu Night Festival has been the most important one which has been regularly held at the Chichibu Shrine and you can see floats as a divine affair to show their gratitude to the Japanese God for protecting the region.
At the festival, 4 floats and 2 decorative big umbrellas parade. All of them are put together without any nails and they look so magnificent that people say it is a moving Yomei-gate in the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
The Chichibu Night Festival is held on December the 2nd and the following day, December the 3rd of every year.
The most attractive one is the main festival held on December the 3rd. A lot of tourists gather on that date from Japan and all over the world.
Registration to the world heritage event (UNESCO intangible cultural heritage)
On December the 1st in 2016, “Japanese floats, decorative big umbrellas and stands (Yatai) ” were registered as intangible cultural heritages event of UNESCO.
A total of 33 heritage events in 18 prefectures were immediately registered and the Chichibu has been chosen as one of them because of the effect of the float and the dance with music (Kagura) at the festival.
Originally, the Chichibu Night Festival was registered as an important tangible folk cultural affair (Chichibu festival float) as well as a significant intangible folk cultural affair (festival music, dance and Chichibu Kagura) and the innumerable performances at the festival are national treasures.
This registration made the world acknowledge the Chichibu Night Festival as a rare and valuable one.
The recommended points and good out-of-the-way spots of the floats for you to see
About the courses (routes) and time of the floats
Every year, “A map of the Chichibu Night Festival, the festival realms and combined umbrellas pulled by the floats” is issued by Chichibu Night Festival Sightseeing Performance Committee.
The routes are basically the same every year and date of the 2nd and the 3rd have highlights to see respectively.
On the 3rd, 4 floats of Miyajii, Kamimachi, Nakamachi and Motomachi and 2 decorative big umbrellas will parade. Significantly, the Shimogo umbrella is seven meters high and 20 tons in weight. It is a must to see it.
The time and the route of the Chichibu Night Festival floats are shown above.
On December the 2nd…the floats parade two times, from 12:00~16:30 and 18:00~20:00. The route is 1km stretch from Kamimachi~Nakamachi~Motomachi to the Chichibu Shrine.
On the 2nd, 4 floats, Miyajii, Kamimachi, Nakamachi and Motomachi will parade and the decorative big umbrellas are carefully placed as a decoration.
Only Yoimiya (the eve of the festival) will have a performance of the floats’ passing by each other on the narrow street and their movements as if they are about to crash into each other will be the highlight.
On December the 3rd…the floats will parade from 9:00 a.m. through to the following morning. At noon, the floats will parade the same as they did on the 2nd in the city.
From 7:00 p.m., they will parade through the Chichibu Shrine, Motomachi, Nakamachi and Kamimachi in the city and they will arrive at 『Otabisho』 behind the Ohanabatake station at 22:00.
And then they go back to their respective cities by the following morning, taking their time. This is the sequential route.
Before arriving at Otabisho, there is a slope named Dangozaka and it is the most spectacular sight where a lot of people go up the slope, pulling the float, 12-20 tons in weight with a rope and all their human power.
There are musical bands on the floats and dances and shows are constantly performed in various places and it is very lively with many stands.
The closer to the climax the festival atomosphere gets, the more crowded the city becomes, so it would be better to see the details of the floats in the daytime.
Recommended points of the floats to appreciate
At the Chichicu Night Festival, it’s best to see the floats moving!
The Chichibu Ekimae street, Seijin street from Yao Department-store to the Ohanabatake station and Dangozaka at the climax is the highlight.
You shouldn’t miss seeing Girimawashi, in a 90 degrees turn of direction passing by each other which can only be seen in December the 3rd and climbing up the Dangozaka which is the climax.
On the 3rd, for 3 hours between 19:00 and 22:00, the atmosphere will reach its peak and I can’t help being excited even though I have experienced it several times.
Finally 6 floats will gather in Otabisho and the scene of flicking fire lights is truly the highlight of the Chichibu Night Festival.
I recommend that you should take in with all your senses, the respectively different forms, decorations, Nagauta（a song）and dances.
The lacquer paint, Urushinuri, gold-works and the bright decoration can be seen in the Chichibu Night Festival.
The rear of the floats has the fancy-work called Ushiromaku and its magnificent bold patterns are a delight to observe.
About the fireworks
The fireworks exhibition program and its time
On the 2nd, between 19:00 through 20:00, a single firework and star-mines will be launched.
On the 3rd, annually about 7000 fireworks are launched and the schedule is as follows.
From 19:30, Japan Art Firework Exhibition (You can see works by a notable fireworks manufacturer.)
*Sophisticated fireworks (two 30 cm fireballs are simultaneously launched )
*Big ball star-mines and so on
From around 21:00, competing fireworks exhibition, special programs, rainbow star-mines and so on will be displayed.
The firework manufacturers in the Saitama prefecture make the sophisticated fireworks and compete with other ones in term of beauty.
Additionally, a firework show which will last for about 10 minutes with the popular music from the year will take place.
At around 21:55, the festival will be concluded by the gold waterfall.
Recommended spots of the fireworks
You can comparatively easily see the fireworks from high buildings in the city. Because they are launched from a little high place in the park of Hitsujiyama.。
Except from the buildings, in front of the Seibu Chichibu station (Maturi-no-yu), Michino-eki Chichibu, the parking lot of the shopping mall, Unikusu Chichibu and the national road No.140 on which cars are forbidden to drive are the best spots.
You can also see it from the pay booth.
Here, I have introduced to you the Chichibu Night Festival, a world heritage event and also one of the biggest 3 Japanese Hikiyama festivals.
You should wrap up warmly, because it is very cold at night during the festival.
Also, you should plan well ahead, considering how much time you have, because it becomes very crowded everywhere.