All About Japan

How Akita Warms the Winter

| Festivals , Akita

Situated in the top-left corner of Japan’s main island of Honshu, the prefecture of Akita is one of those amazing places that has very vibrant seasons, with a hot and humid summer followed by an extremely cold and snowy winter.

Japanese filmmaker Maki Indo captured the prefecture’s warmer months on film recently, but it turns out that she also returned toward the end of the year to see what Akita is like in the throes of winter.

If you’ve never lived in a snowy climate, it can definitely be a shock when you wake up and find several feet of powder on your car. In Akita, you have to constantly shovel the snow off the roof of your house or else it might collapse down into your living room due to the weight. Family members risk life and limb climbing on top of their homes, but Indo’s heartwarming film makes it all feel totally worth it.

As with the first video, Indo focuses on the people who are living deep within the magnificent nature that surrounds them. Snow banks taller than children line every road, and a winter day without snowfall is extremely uncommon. In the video, we see life in Akita through the eyes of elementary school students and the community as they prepare for one of the many winter festivals.

When the winters are that cold and dark, towns are happy to think of some way to celebrate and bring people together. In Akita, the festivals are as different as they are plentiful and in Gojome Town, where this video was shot, their main winter festival is called Kamifusen Matsuri (Paper Balloon Festival). Each balloon is hand-painted by school children, communities and businesses with wishes for a great future carefully added.

All their hard work culminates during the second week of February when this magical festival is held and people from around Akita flock to this tiny town to watch the balloons be set free against a backdrop of snow and fireworks.

Through the coldest month of the year, you can still feel the warmth and pride of the people of Akita in this short film. The stunningly beautiful images are enough to melt anyone’s frozen winter heart.

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