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in wintertime Eastern Hokkaido
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Rikubetsu has been measured by AMeDAS (Automated Meteorological Data Acquisition System) as having the nationwide lowest average temperature and average low temperature (excluding Mt. Fuji) in the dead of winter (January). The Seki district in the town has even had temperatures drop below -40 degrees, temperatures too low to even measure. This has earned it the continuous status of "The Coldest City in Japan" both in name and in fact. The Rikubetsu "Shibare Festival" ("Freezing Cold Festival") was started as a chance to fully enjoy that level of coldness. It welcomes its 36th installment this year as an event that has matured into a popular gathering attracting visitors from all over Japan.
The highlight event in the "Shibare Festival" that draws challengers from all over Japan is the "Human Cold Resistance Test." The rules are simple. All you have to do is stay within the "Shibare Festival" grounds from the opening ceremony at 21:00 to 7:00 the next morning. However, the sleeping area is a -20 degree ice igloo complex called the "Balloon Apartments." Fire and heating equipment are not allowed. The only heat source allowed to the challengers is the massive "Firestorm" bonfire called "The Fire of Life." Only people who make it to the next morning without escaping are handed a certificate of completion.
For general visitors who aren't participating in the Cold Resistance Test, the "Shibare Festival" also has a wealth of activities the whole family can enjoy, including live concert performances, a fireworks display, and horse riding. For a harsh weather event, it has more and more repeat visitors every year. Last year there were 282 participants in the Cold Resistance Test and about 12,000 general festival visitors. This nationwide coldest celebration called the "Shibare Festival" just might contain a sense of awe and wonder that only people who have fought through true coldness can understand.
Rikubetsu "36th Shibare Festival"
Uenbetsu, Rikubetsu, Ashoro, Hokkaido
Times: 18:00 – 21:00 on Saturday, February 4 (the Human Cold Resistance Test starts at 21:00 *Prior reservations required)
9:30 – 14:00 on Sunday, February 5 (the Human Cold Resistance Test lasts until 7:00, whereupon a certificate presentation ceremony will be held)
Festival period: 1st Saturday & Sunday of February
About 1 hour from Memanbetsu Airport
Human Cold Resistance Test: 300 participators expected
The participation fee is 4,000 yen (includes 1 meal, a morning bath, and insurance fees)
All participation applications must be submitted in advance. Application review is scheduled for mid-December
(Details will be announced on the website when finalized) Applications will be selected by drawing if the applicant number exceeds capacity
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