The Enchanting Chichibu Night Festival - Dec 2023

For over three centuries, the Chichibu Yomatsuri (Night Festival) has illuminated the winter skies of Japan, earning its place among the nation's top-tier float festivals. Joining the ranks of esteemed celebrations like the Kyoto Gion Festival and the Hida Takayama Festival, this event showcases six awe-inspiring floats, two of which are aptly named "Kasaboko," meaning flower parasols.

Rooted in history, the Chichibu Yomatsuri stands as the grand festival of the Chichibu Shrine, drawing crowds to witness the spectacle of ornate floats parading through Chichibu. Within these floats, kabuki performances transport attendees to a bygone era, weaving captivating tales of tradition and artistry. As night falls, the skies ignite with a brilliant display of fireworks, casting a magical glow over the festivities.

In the heart of the Edo period, the festival found its genesis amidst the bustling silk markets that thrived within the shrine's grounds. Today, its enduring charm lies in the vibrant hues of paper-covered lanterns, or "Bonbori," swaying gracefully against the backdrop of a winter fireworks extravaganza.

Designated as Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets, the Chichibu Festival floats and Kagura (a Shinto theatrical dance) stand as living testaments to Japan's rich cultural heritage.

A Journey to Chichibu: Where Tradition Meets Modernity

Nestled just 90 minutes from central Tokyo, the Chichibu Night Festival graces the town of Chichibu every year on December 2 and 3. While both days hold significance, the main festivities crescendo on December 3. Considered one of Japan's eminent float festivals, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the illustrious Gion Matsuri of Kyoto and the resplendent Takayama Matsuri.

Each float is a testament to artistry, adorned with lanterns, tapestries, and intricately carved woodwork, accompanied by the rhythmic beat of drums and the mellifluous notes of flutes.

However, the festival's pièce de résistance is undoubtedly its two-and-a-half-hour fireworks display, offering a rare opportunity to bask in the ethereal glow of Japanese pyrotechnics against the winter night. As the evening chill sets in, the streets come alive with stalls offering delectable festival fare and amazake, a sweet rice wine designed to warm the soul.

A Glimpse into the Festival's Heartbeat

On December 3, the Chichibu Festival comes to life. Afternoon and early evening witness the floats on display in their respective neighborhoods and at the hallowed grounds of the Chichibu Shrine. As dusk descends, the floats embark on their procession through Chichibu's enchanting streets, commencing around 19:00.

The climax unfolds on the plaza before the city hall, where each float ascends the slope, forming a breathtaking tableau. From 19:30 to 22:00, a sprawling fireworks display paints the sky, visible from myriad vantage points throughout the town. As the clock nears 22:00, the festival reaches its zenith, allowing revelers to catch the final trains back to Tokyo.

Planning Your Journey

Given the festival's popularity, expect crowds to converge along the parade route and the plaza in front of the city hall. For prime viewing spots, arrive early, secure reserved seating, or opt for the big screen spectacle near Seibu Chichibu Station.

For those unable to attend in person, the Chichibu Festival Hall, adjacent to Chichibu Shrine, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the Night Festival and other cherished traditions of the Chichibu region.

Navigating Your Way

Central Chichibu, just outside Chichibu and Seibu-Chichibu Stations, sets the stage for this enchanting festival. Additional trains run on December 3 courtesy of Seibu Railway and Chichibu Railway. As the festivities conclude, all trains back to Tokyo are reserved limited express trains by Seibu Railway.