Making Spirits Bright and Filling the City With Light: Sendai's Winter Events and Festivals!
Pageant of Starlight
As winter arrives in Sendai, everyone starts to look forward to one particular event. From December 12 until the end of this year, the center of the city will be illuminated in the "Sendai Pageant of Starlight," an event which has taken place since 1986. From its humble beginnings as a small event by local volunteers, it has now become a seasonal tradition of Sendai, and well known across Japan. Hundreds of thousands of lights envelop Jozenji-dori and Aoba-dori, Sendai's main avenues, warming the winter with its romantic atmosphere. For the duration of the event, Loople Sendai, the city's sightseeing bus, runs a special "Pageant of Starlight" route allowing riders to travel through a tunnel of light as it passes through the streets of Sendai.
Hatsuuri Sale (First Sale)
On January 2 of each year businesses across Japan have a New Year's tradition of selling fukubukuro, or "lucky bags." Customers pay a set price for a bag with unknown contents, taking a chance that they'll end up with a great deal like a designer handbag or high-tech electronics. Sendai's department stores, shopping streets, and specialty stores have held their own "Sendai Hatsuuri Sale" (First Sale) since the time of samurai warlord Date Masamune. Sendai's First Sale is famous for its extravagant lucky bags filled to the brim with premium goods. Many of the "lucky bags" are actually "lucky boxes!" At the most popular stores, hopeful customers will line up from the night before, hoping to strike a bargain before supplies run out. The chance to strike it big in Sendai means that there are more shoppers streaming in from outside prefectures than from the city itself!
During the Dontonsai Festival on January 14 worshippers gather their New Year's decorations and burn them in a large bonfire at local shrines to pray for happiness, prosperity, and good health. At the city's Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, a national treasure, men clad only in a white cotton cloth with headband and socks to match carry a lantern, bell, and paper in the hadakamairi, or "nude march." This raucous event draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the shrine, worshippers and sightseers alike.
Although overall northeastern Japan's Tohoku region has an image of chilly winters, the balancing effects of the nearby Pacific Ocean means Sendai City is comparatively warm. With plenty of clear skies and calm weather, famous hotsprings nearby at Akiu and Sakunami, access to nearby ski resorts, and all of the exciting winter events, Sendai makes a great winter getaway!
Photos: (C) City of Sendai