Zao Snow Monster Festival

Snow Monsters, Mascots and Fireworks at Zao Onsen

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read
Venue: Zao Onsen Ski Resort When: Early Feb 2023

Zao Onsen's Snow Monsters are famous throughout Japan but there are other creatures of great popularity. I would never have thought that mascots in man-size would attract such a crowd on an icy cold winter night. The Japanese love their mascots and it seems that many foreigners do love them too.

The Zao Snow Monster Festival, which takes place on the first weekend of February each year at Zao Onsen, ends with a great show that features the Zao Onsen mascots, Yamagata Prefecture mascots, as well as other mascot VIPs.

Taiki-kun, Muhyoko-chan and Jukkii-kun, husband, wife and boy, are Zao Onsen's Snow Monster family mascots. Jukkii-kun is internet savvy and runs his own blog.

They are joined for the night by Yamagata's "imoni" hot-pot characters, Satomi-chan and Imoni-man. A representative of Yamagata's agricultural association, in shape of a mountain and called Prorin, is also there, as is Zero-gomi-kun.

NHK BS characters, Nanami-chan and Domo-kun, have probably traveled furthest to join their mascot colleagues on the snowy stage. They have difficulties standing up by themselves and therefore are guided around by some helpful Zao Onsen volunteers.

Nazuki-kun from Nozawa Spa and Nozawa Ski Resort (Nagano Prefecture) and Ohyokkurin from Hakuba's Happo-one Ski Resort are there too, and a mysterious Beni-chan, who knows where she is from.

To see the mascots, you have to wait a while as the beginning of the festival features members from Zao Onsen's various ski schools riding down the slopes on their skis and snowboards in colorful customs and carrying torches.

They put on a fantastic fire show and a pro ski and snowboard jump show. The light and heat from the torches and the exciting jumps of the ski and snowboard pros warm up spectators standing watching in the cold.

At the end of the festival, there is a spectacular firework. It is not only in summer that you can enjoy fireworks in Japan! At Zao Onsen the colors and sparkles of the fireworks light up the ski slopes and make people happy.

The festival takes place at Uenodai Slope in the evening from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm, provided that weather conditions allow it. Access is free.

There are some shuttle buses from hotels around the resort, for example, from Zao Shiko Hotel. You need to book a place on the bus though.

In typical festival fashion, there are some food stalls and some stalls that sell hot drinks and hot sake.

This show is not the only attraction of the Snow Monster Festival but the main presentation is actually staged by nature on top of the slopes where Zao's Snow Monsters (Juyho in Japanese), a natural phenomena without equal, attract droves of spectators each year. During the festival the Snow Monsters are illuminated for inspection and enjoyment in the evening.

The Juyho rival Nagano's Snow Monkeys in popularity and they are one of Japan's winter attractions not to be missed!

More info

Find out more about Zao Onsen Ski Resort.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Novia Mardasari a year ago
bringing the kids here will surely make them happy
Kim 3 years ago
I have always wondered how awful it'd be to be inside a mascot costume in the middle of summer, but in the middle of winter it's probably quite advantageous! This looks like a really fun festival!
Victoria Vlisides 5 years ago
looks like fun!