our feeble attempts
at capturing both
Floats? ✓ Check. Fireworks? ✓ Check. It's rare to see both at the same time, in the winter, no less! Here for the Chichibu Night Festival 秩父夜祭 on December 2nd & 3rd, 2016. Surprisingly, it was not too busy on the first night which was a Friday.
The floats are really gorgeous but it was challenging getting the floats and the fireworks in the same shot as there are quite often buildings in the way and they are both pretty spread out so timing is everything... and of course luck.
The elaborate floats donned in lanterns carry quite a few people and are pulled by even more people! As the floats approach one another, they do this interesting face off battle, which, excuse the reference, reminds me of Eminem's rap battle in 8 Mile, except they do it with lanterns, drums, and shouting! Great ambience and nowhere as busy as Kawagoe Festival, on the first night at least.
On Saturday the 3rd, the second day of the festival, there were a lot more food stalls and many many more people even at 10 in the morning. No lanterns during the day but there are traditional performances on the floats with white-faced women dressed in fancy kimono dancing, sometimes with fans/umbrellas.
I'd imagine by night the fireworks would be even more spectacular, maybe closer to all the amazing posters you see online, but we left early to beat the crowd. Getting stuck somewhere at the end of any big festival in Japan makes you start swearing to yourself that you'll NEVER EVER attend another festival until you eventually forget and can't resist the allure of going to another one.
By the time we left just before 2, we saw that the tickets for the last five 80-minute limited express trains 特急レッドアロー号 back to Ikebukuro 池袋 were already sold out, and there was a long line to buy limited express tickets - so it'd be good if you could make arrangements in advance. Again, like any festival in Japan, getting back home could be an absolute nightmare, getting stuck with droves of people for 2+ hours, inching along, barely moving, unsure if and when you can actually get on a train. Not my cup of tea.
hiking trails from Hitsujiyama Park
kids adventure park
|We stayed a night at a ryokan called Hiyoshi 旅館 比与志. Even months ahead, it was difficult to book hotels online in Chichibu for this festival - they simply weren't listed on booking sites for some reason so I think you'd need to call. Of course, it was quite a bit pricier than usual even for a night without meals 素泊り.
The fireworks are set off from Hitsujiyama Park 羊山公園 at 7 pm behind the hotel and the festivities are not too far of a walk away, closer to the Chichibu Shrine 秩父神社 area - some food stalls along the way and also in front of the station. The park just a few minutes uphill behind the ryokan is also the one that has a pink carpet of flowers in the spring - although there's nothing to see in December, there's a kids adventure park there with a zip line and hiking trails.
The ryokan is very nice! Old with a modern touch - with good wifi and simple tasteful decor. Upon check-in, staff gave a super lengthy explanation such as no outings after midnight as the front door will be locked and be quiet at night as soundproofing is minimal - bring earplugs if you want to sleep in. There are clean shared washlet toilets and 2 private baths with weakish showers shared on a first-come-first-served basis 貸切風呂, 1 smaller & the other larger.
Under 10 minutes to walk here from Seibu-Chichibu Station 西武秩父. Take the small road on your right when you exit the station. When you come to the end of the road, you'll see a Sunkus convenience store across the street. Cross and turn left into the small road next to it and walk for a bit until the end of that road where you'll see a small sign with the hotel's name in 3 kanji pointing to the right. Follow the sign right then make a left and you won't miss it on your left in a quiet residential area. Alternatively, if you take the main road to the right exiting the station, you should see the Sunkus after turning right and walking past Route Inn ルートイン 秩父.