As expected it has dumped overnight in Nozawa Onsen, and dumped hard. 30cm of fresh powder has been recorded up near the summit of Mt Kenashi and 20cm down in the village. At the moment snow is still falling at moderate levels and the upper mountain is soaked in fog. Winds are gusting strong up top so be ready for very cold temperatures with a wind chill of around -20C.
Today is a day for the secret spots to escape the long weekend crowds, which are building in the lead up to the annual much celebrated fire festival. Look for locals dragging trees down from the mountain today for use in the ceremony on Wednesday night. There is a definite celebratory atmosphere about the village with the main streets chock a block full of people, well worth a look.
Yesterday we saw great conditions earlier with very cold overnight temperatures sucking the moisture out of the snow creating fast groomers and nice off piste powder. The afternoon saw temperatures warm and subsequently the snow became heavy lower down, good conditions for carving on the groomers but not so nice off piste.
We should expect snow showers to gradually decrease throughout the day before becoming isolated tomorrow. Wednesday should see mostly sunny conditions with some clouds moving across during the afternoon. Further light snow showers are predicted for Thursday.
Yuto airs on a pristine powder run.
Nozawa Onsen Snow Report 13 January 2014: The Magic Foot Overnight
Good news, its dumping in Nozawa Onsen! The snow started to fall earlier than expected just after dark last night and after a brief respite during the early hours of the morning began to fall at heavier levels around 3am this morning. Temperatures are still rather moderate sitting around 0 in the village and -4C up top, although we expected this to drop later in the day.
Best snow conditions will be found on the upper half of the mountain this morning which received the most amount of fresh overnight and suffered the least in yesterdays warmth. Seek shelter and improved visibility by skiing in or close to the tree lined runs. Yamabiko will be nice with all the new snow. For beginners today, best to stick to the lower runs which will have better visibility and less wind.
Yesterday was ok in the morning up high with nice fast conditions, however became slushy during the afternoon. Luckily the expected rain held off and we only had some very light drizzle down in the village.
We have a brilliant week ahead for anyone skiing in Japan. Cold temperatures and continued snowfalls are expected well into next week, probably Wednesday at least. The heaviest falls will occur today, tomorrow night and then again on Sunday night, with moderate falls filling in the gaps.
Expect conditions like this over the next week in Nozawa Onsen.
Fire and snow always go well and the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri (or 野沢温泉の道祖神祭り in Japanese), exemplifies this as one of the three great fire festivals in Japan. The old roads that run like rivers between mountain towns in Japan are dotted with gods. Known as dosojin, they are deities of roads and borders with their stone statues usually enshrined at village borders. Dosojin are good gods for the foreign traveller.
It takes roughly one hundred villagers to build the shrine for the Nozawa Fire Festival. The trees are cut down in October and brought down from the mountain and through the village on January 13th prior to being made into a huge wooden structure or shaden. After the shaden has been constructed, the priest from Kosuge shrine performs a ceremony endowing it with a dosojin. The highlight on January 15th is a “fire-setting battle” which ends up with the setting fire of the shaden with blazing torches by the offensive team and the offering of torches to the deity, making the festival truly spectacular and exciting. The entire festival is quite lengthy and can take up to four hours from the beginning to the end. Some observers gather just for the main attraction which is the battle between the guards and the torch bearing villagers. Add liberal servings of saké to all of the above and you’re sure to go home buzzing after seeing quite a spectacle – and maybe a bit scorched from the flames (don’t wear your new down jacket). The famous Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival is nationally designated as an important intangible folk cultural property. It originally began as an invocation for a good harvest, health and good fortune in the coming year, but has been expanded to include a good ski season as well. Taking place on January 15th every year, the festival is staged by men aged 42 and 25 (so-called “unlucky ages”) to celebrate the birth of a family’s first child, to dispel evil spirits and also to pray for happy marriage. If you want to see more detailed background information on the Nozawa Fire Festival check this excellent local perspective.
Some suggested protocols for the Nozawa Fire Festival
Enjoy yourself, the Nozawa Fire Festival is a fun and exciting, even crazy, occasion. You will rave about it to your friends once back home. Enjoy the free sake that is offered and make friends. But do remember that you are not in your local pub back home, nor in a mosh pit at a concert. This a cultural festival with deep meaning for the local community and families. Use respectful language, do not push and shove and try not to block others views where possible. Also, despite all temptation, do not take ‘souvenirs’ of the evening. You may be lifting something that has deep meaning to a local family or the community. Just take home great memories and fantastic photos/videos!
Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival Gallery
Click on the thumbnail to see the larger picture
A steaming man at the Nozawa Onsen fire festival.
Dosojin fire festival Nozawa Onsen.
Nozawa Onsen fire festival 2013.
Three Torus for this years Fire Festival – our neighbours prodly celebrate the new birth in the Family
The stage is set for action tomorrow night
Dosojin fire festival Nozawa Onsen.
Nozawa Onsen fire festival 2013. The crowd admires the spectacle.