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This month's folk festivals


Hatsuichi is the first ichi or market of the year. Good luck charms are sold in hatsuichi, and people buy them every New Year as they burn the old ones at the start of a new year. Daruma dolls are a popular form of good luck charm here in Gunma because approximately 80% of the country's daruma dolls are produced in Takasaki. Daruma merchants, who are members of a union, sell them at "hatsuichi", starting with Shorin-zan in Takasaki, where daruma dolls are originated. They move around cities in Gunma to sell daruma dolls at different locations on different days. Hatsuichi attract a huge crowd, so roads will be closed to traffic. Here is the information on hatsuichi at some cities in Gunma.

Maebashi Hatsuichi

Honmachi-dori Avenue and shopping streets of downtown Maebashi will be closed to traffic for the hatsuichi. Merchants sell daruma dolls and other good-luck charms. At the Honmachi Hachimangu Shrine, people bring their daruma dolls from the past year for the shrine priests to burn in accordance with a Shinto ritual. There will be a mikoshi (portable shrine) procession in the area.

When Monday, January 9
Where Honmachi-dori Avenue (Route 50) and shopping streets of central Maebashi MAP
Contact 027-235-2211

Shorinzan Nanakusa Darumaichi

Shorinzan Nanakusa Darumaichi

Darumaichi at Shorinzan kicks off daruma doll sale of the year. It is also nationally known and is the largest of its kind, attracting more than 300,000 local and out-of-town visitors every year. On the shrine premises, people can request to participate in a Shinto ritual in which they paint a pupil on one eye of the daruma doll for their wish to come true. (They paint the other eye either when their wish is granted later in the year or at the end of the year.)

When January 6 (Fri.) and 7 (Sat.)
Where Shorinzan Darumaji (No. 296 Hanadaka-machi, Takasaki) MAP
Video Youtube
Contact 027-322-8800

Isesaki Hatsuichi

Isesaki Hatsuichi

Honcho-dori Avenue is closed to traffic for the hatsuichi. In addition to selling daruma dolls, many stalls will be set up and B-grade gourmet dishes and other interesting things such as plants will be on sale.
As part of the hatsuichi, a festival featuring four gigantic yakimanju (roasted buns with or without bean paste) will also be held at the nearby shrine. The giant yakimanju will be served to visitors after the festival.

When Wednesday, January 11
Hatsuichi from 12 noon to 9:30 p.m.
Yakimansai (Yakimanju Festival) from 2:00p.m.
Where Hatsuichi on Honcho-Dori Avenue MAP
Yakimansai at Isesaki Shrine (No. 21-1 Honcho, Isesaki) MAP
Video Youtube
Contact 0270-24-5111

Tatebayashi Hatsuichi

Hatsuichi in Tatebayashi has an over 100 year-old history. Shopping streets of downtown Tatebayashi attract a large crowd. People want to buy their New Year's daruma dolls, but they also come to enjoy the festivities and the nearly 200 stalls that sell all kinds of interesting things.

When Wednesday, January 18
Where Along the city road 1206 (Tatebayashi-Fujioka Route) to the Kagome-Dori shopping arcade in Hon-cho 1-chome
Contact 0276-72-4111

Other Events

Asama Highland Winter Festival

Asama Highland Winter Festival

The festival features many fun events for families. Candles lit in the snow makes you feel as if you were in a wonderland. Tubing is popular with children.

When January 28(Sat.) and 29 (Sun.)
Where On the premises of Tsumagoi Prince Hotel MAP
Contact 0279-86-5077

Kusatsu International Ski Resort Festival

A cup of hot soup (either oshiruko or sweet red-bean soup with rice cakes or tonjiru, miso soup with pork and vegetables) will be offered from 3 p.m. to a limited number of visitors. The festival features family sporting events/games on the snow and a raffle with deluxe prizes such as free lift tickets, onsen bathing tickets, etc. For more details, please visit their website.

When January 28(Sat.) and 29(Sun.)
Where Kusatsu Tenguyama Ski Slope 158 Rinpan Ooaza Kusatsu-Shirane Kokuyurin, Kusatsu-machi, Agatsuma-gun MAP
Contact 0279-88-8111

2011-12 Season Ski Resorts in Gunma (PDF/349KB)

Please watch Gunma-chan on the ski slope

Kawarayu Onsen Spa & Resort Yukake Festival

Yukake means pour onsen waters on to something/someone. As the name suggests, this 400-year old festival features local young men, who wear only the fundoshi (loincloth or traditional Japanese men's underpants), pour onsen water on each other. In the early morning of the festival day, they appear on the streets of Kawarayu Onsen Spa & Resort. With the Japanese drum beating as a cue, they start pouring onsen water on each other while shouting "Celebrations" to pray for the good year. It's quite a spectacular sight to see and is famous for its uniqueness. The festival takes place on January 20, the coldest day of the year, called Daikan, according to the lunar calendar. As you may know, Kawarayu Onsen Spa & Resort will go underwater once Yanba Dam is completed, the construction of which is currently suspended.

When Friday, January 20
Where Special stage set up in front of Ou-yu public bath MAP
No. 290 Kawarayu, Naganohara-machi, Agatsuma-gun
Video Youtube
Contact 0279-83-2591