Photos courtesy of Echigo Matsudai Fuyunojin Executive Committee
Photos courtesy of Echigo Matsudai Fuyunojin Executive Committee

Niigata festival to include ironman-like race to castle

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Matsudai in Niigata Prefecture is a 5-hour drive from most U.S. military installations on the Kanto Plain. The tiny castle town is located inside one of Japan’s heaviest snowfall areas.

Towards the end of each winter, the town hosts a popular winter festival heralding the arrival of spring, called Echigo Matsudai Fuyunojin (literally, Winter Battles in Matsudai, Niigata). The event draws 23,000 people every year.

This year, the festival will be held March 9 and 10. The 32nd annual event will also include a unique ironman-type race called Nottore Matsudai-jo (literally, capture Matsudai Castle).

Five hundred runners will take on the demanding 3-kilometer course into the castle at the top of a mountain. The steep climb will be filled with various obstacles as challengers race to finish first.

Some runners are disguised as samurai warriors and perform in a traditional ceremony before and after going into “battle.” The winner will become the master of Matsudai Castle for the year and be presented with a large bag of premium rice.

Other runners will be entered into a drawing for trips to the tropical island of Guam and for stays at a hot spring hotel.

The event will include traditional dancing, mikoshi shrine processions and fireworks displays, along with various food booths.

Whether participating or just observing the race, the performances and tasty foods while enjoying the snow will surely make for an unforgettable and unique Japanese experience.

takiguchi.takahiro@stripes.com

Echigo Matsudai Fuyunojin
Location: Matsudai Sogo Taiikukan, 4008 Matsudai, Tookamachi City, Niigata Pref.
Admission: Free
URL: www.tokamachishikankou.jp/matudai/event/fuyu/english.html
Email: ms-chiiki@city.tokamachi.lg.jp
Tel: 025-597-2220
Events:
• Day 1: Mar. 9 (noon – 9 p.m.)
Opening ceremony, traditional dancing, brass band performance, Mikoshi bearing, fireworks 
• Day 2: Mar. 10 (9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
Race to the castle and a traditional dance performance.

To participate in the race
Start: Mar. 10, 11:30 a.m.
Number of runners: 500
Application: Fill in the application form at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe3tVbL-tnwmmiCskV1yI6yC_tQIg-qF2kbauIG4T1afV97_Q/viewform
Registration open until Feb. 8 (or when 500 entrants are reached)
Eligibility: anyone in high school or older
Fee: 5,000 yen

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