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YOSAKOI Soran Festival in 2010 | © Tzu-hsun Hsu / Wikipedia
YOSAKOI Soran Festival in 2010 | © Tzu-hsun Hsu / Wikipedia

6 Traditions Only Locals in Hokkaido Can Understand

Picture of Dave Afshar
Updated: 9 February 2017
With its long winters, rich history, and indigenous population, the northern island of Hokkaido has a distinct culture, unique to that of the rest of Japan. We take a look at some of the holidays, special events, and traditions that make Hokkaido truly one of a kind.

Strawberry and Pork Festival

While most people don’t typically associate one with the other, the small town of Toyoura in southern Hokkaido is famous for two things: strawberry farming, and pork. Apparently, the local government decided to save time and celebrate both products at once, and thus the Strawberry and Pork festival was created. Aside from the obvious dining options, the event also features live performances and marching bands.

 Ubagami Shrine Festival

This 3 day parade dates back nearly 400 years and is one of Japan’s oldest festivals. Local residents carry various mikoshi (portable shrines) through the streets, the oldest of which was built in Osaka in the year 1694. The festival also features traditional musical accompaniment mainly performed by flutists and drummers.

🔺Ubagami-daijingu shrine of Esashi, Togyo festival🔺 🔺江差姥神大神宮・渡御祭🔺 Ubagami-jingu festival of Esashi begins. It is a float festival at the north end of Japan following from the Edo period. The 13 floats participate. 江差の姥神大神宮の祭りが始まります。江戸時代から続く祭りとしては日本北端の山車祭です。13基の山が出ます。 姥神大神宮 北海道江差町 Ubagami-daijingu shrine / Esadhi town, Hokkaidō prf., Japan 8月9日〜11日 Photo on 9.Aug.2006 #北海道 #檜山 #江差 #姥神大神宮 #姥神大神宮渡御祭 #山 #山車 #豊年山 #祭 #祭り #祇園囃子 #囃子 #Hokkaido #esashi #japan #festival #festivalmusic #float #folklore

A photo posted by 🇯🇵JAPAN Festival Plaza🗾お祭り広場京都 (@amano.jun) on

Otaru Snow Light Path

Located just an hour’s drive from Sapporo, this beautiful port city already has a reputation for being something of a fairytale, but the real magic happens around the first two weeks in February. For 10 days, the entire city is lit up by lanterns and miniature snow statues, creating a beautiful and calm winter wonderland.

Sapporo Autumn Fest

Hokkaido is known as the “Kingdom of Food” to the Japanese due to its fresh seafood, strong agricultural industry, and locally raised livestock. Every year for about three weeks in September, restaurateurs and farmers from all over Hokkaido set up booths to promote their local delicacies and products at the Sapporo Autumn Festival. All the staples of Hokkaido can be found here, such as miso ramen, sashimi, and soup curry.

Yuki Zanmai

Located at the famous Jozankei hot spring resort, Yuki Zanmai (literally, “snow indulgence”, but more commonly known in English as “Jozankei Mountain Party”) is an all-ages winter celebration taking place every year in mid January. Guests have a chance to ride dog sleds and snow rafts and take a pleasant stroll through Yukitouro (“Snow Candle Way”), which is a local shrine lit up at night by around two thousand candles.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Drawing in over two million tourists per year, this now legendary festival of ice and snow was started by a group of high school students in 1950. Participants can join sporting competitions, ski and snowboard events, ice sculpture exhibits, and even a beauty contest where the winner is awarded the title of “Ice Queen”.