If you're in town this week then you will definitely notice some interesting things happening that are part of Nozawa's own Dosojin Fire Festival (Hi Matsuri).
Today we already witnessed the 25 and 42 year old men of the town dragging logs down the mountain to the Hikage base area. Amongst constant chanting and singing, local groups and businesses then presented the villagers with many bottles of sake. These trees were then carried into town where they will be used to build the large multi-storey wooden shrine, the centrepiece of the festival's activities.
Keep an eye out for any toru towers that will pop up around town, these are beautifully decorated and donated by families that have recently given birth in the last year or two.
On the evening of Monday 15th January things will start to kick off from around 19:00 and culminate in adults from the village attacking the shrine with burning sticks at around 21:00, it's not something to be missed! There will also be fireworks and a ceremonial burning of the shrine at the end of the night.
The location of the festival is just down the hill from the main street past Juntos, the Mexican restaurant, and to the right hand side. It will be relatively easy to find the location on the evening, as there will be crowds heading in that direction.
* A reminder that the Fire Festival is a privilege and an amazing experience to witness but visitors must remember to be respectful of the local people and their traditions. Specifically, only receive alcohol if you are offered it and avoid pestering the town members given that it is theirs to enjoy *
The people in the village are very generous and want to make it a safe and incredible experience. Don't drink too much and prepare for a cold night, as there is a good amount of standing around.
Here are some photos from today and last year's festival: