Noboribetsu Onsen Festival: Yumatsuri
The Noboribetsu Onsen Resort is known for its abundant high-temperature hot spring, which comes in a variety of different water types. Every February, the town hosts a festival to celebrate the hot spring. People give thanks to the health effects it provides as well as wish for its continual abundance. During this time, it is also common for people to send prayers for happiness and health in the upcoming year by burning Ema (wooden wishing plaque).
This tradition collides with the annual Setsubun festival, which falls on the last day of winter on the lunar calendar. On this day, it is a Japanese custom to throw roasted soybeans while chanting “Oni wasoto (Out with the demons), Fuku wa uchi (In with good fortune).” In Noboribetsu however, red and blue demons sent by Enma, the Hell master, will make a tour in the town to drive the evil sprits away. The misfortune they collect during the tour will be brought back to Hell with them. For this reason, we do not say “Oni wa soto(Out with the demons)” since demons in Noboribetsu Onsen are hot spring guardians.
The most interesting event to witness during the festival has to be the “Hot Spring Splashing Battle” held at the Sengen Park. In the cold winter night where temperature drops to below zero, over 100 young men dress in waistcloth and fight against each other in two teams: red team and white team. They splash hot spring water and play Kibasen (calvary fight) where a group of four competitors work together, with three carrying the fourth. Whichever group knocks down the opposing group will determine the final victory of the team they represent. The victory of the red team signifies a temperature rise for the spring water whereas the victory of the white team implies an increase in spring volume.
This year, the white team has claimed victory. Dai-ichi Takimotokan is glad to announce that we will have an abundance of hot spring for your enjoyment throughout the entire year!