A Snowy Wedding Parade in Ugo

Ugo, located in the south of Akita prefecture, has heavier snowfall than the other areas in Akita. In agricultural areas like Ugo, the middle of winter is considered a slack season. People have long had weddings this season when farms are closed. An event “Hanayome Dochu (Wedding Parade)” has been held since 1986 to hand down such a traditional way of life to the contemporary people.

The frozen aisle is 12 km long. It takes 5 hours by foot from “Michino Eki Ugo” in Nishimonai through a 4 km mountain pass called Nanamagari Touge to Old Haseyama Residence in Tashiro. Attendants wearing traditional clothes for cold weather, photographers eager for pictures of this beautiful parade, and some interested people are following a sleigh with the bride and groom inside. There are few people walking all the way together, but local people often come outside of their house to see the parade to celebrate and cheer up the party of the parade.

Throughout the way of the parade, you will find thousands of warm candle lights in holes built into the snow walls on each side of the way. All of these are manually created by local volunteers. On the snowy morning, while the starting point, Michino Eki Ugo, is getting more crowded than usual for this event, the volunteers keep digging and hardening snow to prepare the road and venue around the goal.

In the evening, we were in the middle of the mountain pass and a panoramic view was spreading out before us. The lights of houses were twinkling at the foot of the mountain in the pale evening sky. It is such a quiet view, different from the glittering night view in urban areas.

“You can take a photo from a better angle over there,” a photographer with a SLR camera in his hand told me with iPhone 6 in the pocket. Somehow, I felt as if we had known each other even though we were just strangers that had walked a long way together. I had also started to have conversations with the attendants. “Where are you from?” “Winter in Akita must be tough for you.” These kinds of ordinary words warmly supported me in the freezing temperature.

Life in a snowy country is not easy, even if one has lived there from childhood. The event “Yukitopia Nanamagari” began with the hope that everyone would enjoy the life with snow. As the highlight of the event, “Hanayome Douchu” warms up winter in Ugo city. This event, where the whole city celebrates the start of the couple’s new life by reproducing the atmosphere of the traditional wedding, is also where you can feel the true kindness of local people.

An international student from Taiwan who walked all the way of 12 km said that “For me, it’s a really special experience to join this kind of traditional wedding event. Walking for almost 12 km on foot seemed super crazy, but it made me realize how tough and simple life was in the past. I was happy to join this tour. It would be a wonderful memory of my exchange life.”

Her comment made me realize that there was no difference in nationalities and cultures to celebrate a marriage and to feel a tradition no matter where they are from.