Festivals of Japan: Santera Mairi Festival
By John Asano
Hida Furukawa is a picturesque small town located in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture in Hida City. The town is famous for its beautifully preserved old town with traditional houses and white-walled storehouses along the Seto-gawa water canal, where you can stroll along the ancient streets and feed the large colourful carp that swim in the canal.
The town is also famous for its spectacular festivals with one of the best and most famous being the Santera Mairi Festival (Three Temple Pilgrimage) held annually on January 15th.
The festival with a history of over 300 years was traditionally used as an event for young men and women of the town to meet, kind of like a Japanese konpa (party for singles). Today, the event is more like a temple visit to pray and wish for a good relationship. Young people from across the country still flock to the festival in the hope of falling in love, or at least seeking a little help with their love lives.Photo by Party Lin
The Santera Mairi Festival features hundreds of snow candles and lanterns that light up the town for the event. During the festival, one thousand candles line the Seto River along with 40 or 50 ice sculpture candles made of snow, which are around 2 meters in height and can be seen in the main streets of the old town. The soft flickering candles gently reflect off the ancient white-walls of the storehouses creating a wintertime fantasy. The candles used for the festival are specially made in Hida Furukawa and are called warosoku (Japanese candles).
This spectacular lighting looks amazing with the soft snow falling, creating a dreamy and romantic atmosphere that is perfectly fitting with the history and romantic tradition of the festival.
The participants of the festival make pilgrimages to three Buddhist temples in Hida Furukawa (Santera Mairi in Japanese), which are Enko-ji, Shinshu-ji and Honko-ji to pay their respects. By visiting the three temples they receive three stamps which allow them to put their candles on the side of the Seto River to wish for a good relationship. The white candles signify a prayer or wish for fortune in love, while the red candles represent thanks for love found during the previous year.
To enhance the memorable experience even further, you can rent a traditional Japanese kimono and walk around the town during the festival to soak up the amazing atmosphere.
Location: Hida Furukawa, Gifu Prefecture
When: January 15, 2016
Time: 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm
From Tokyo take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya Station and transfer to the Hida Wide View Express on the JR Takayama Line to Hida Furukawa Station. The old town is a short 5 minute walk from JR Hida Furukawa Station.