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Event Roundup: February 2021

Frosty landscapes and lively snow festivals to make that winter chill worth it

· Events,Winter

Banner photo by Wesley Keppel-Henry

1. Cat! Cat! Cat! Show-Ten-Gai

Through February 23

Sendai, Miyagi & Morioka, Iwate

Cat! Cat! Cat! is a month-long art and charity shopping event, with proceeds benefitting local TNR efforts. To raise money for this good cause, cat-loving shops in Sendai and Morioka are offering special events and limited-edition goods, with all proceeds donated to TNR programs. Many of the are items for sale are truly exclusive, being handmade by local artisans expressly for this charity event.

A total of eleven shops are participating in the charity shopping event, with six located in Sendai. In addition to the shopping, some venues will also be hosting art shows and workshops. Gallery Turnaround, Hygge, and Damo Kaffee Haus are all hosting cat art shows, while Muguet is offering an etched brass pet tag making workshop.

In order to keep the event as coronavirus prevention–friendly as possible, most of the participating shops are offering charity shopping in-store as well as online. Big spenders (in-store or online) are also entitled to a couple of perks: Shoppers who spend ¥2,000 or more will receive a free Cat! Cat!Cat! postcard, and shoppers who spend ¥5,000 or more will receive a free Cat! Cat! Cat! pin.

TNR (trap-neuter-release) is a humane method of urban cat population control, in which feral cats are trapped, taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, then released back into their habitat. This helps keep the feral cat population in check while still allowing existing strays to live out their kitty lives. If you've ever seen a kitty with an ear notch roaming the streets, this is why! Most TNR programs notch the ear of cats when they spay or neuter them, to prevent the same kitties from being unnecessarily trapped again.

Hours: Varies by shop

Admission: Free

Details: cat-dog-me.org

Sendai locations:

  • Botanical Item & Cafe Cyan (ボタニカルアイテム&カフェ シアン). 4-minute walk from Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station, or 10-minute walk from Sendai Station. 
  • Damo Kaffee Haus (ダモ コーヒー ハウス). 3-minute walk from Hirosedori Station, or 4-minute walk from Sendai Station.
  • Galerie Arbre (ギャラリー アルブル). 5-minute walk from Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station, or 9-minute walk from Sendai Station.
  • Gallery Turnaround (ターンアラウンド ギャラリー&カフェ). 5-minute walk from Omachi Nishi-koen Station.
  • Hygge (ヒュッゲ). 14-minute walk from Omachi Nishi-koen Station, or 15-minute walk from Kotodai-koen Station.
  • art*zakka coco-chi (アートと雑貨 ココチ). 5-minute walk from Aoba-dori Ichibancho Station or 10-minute walk from Sendai Station.
  • Muguet (ミュゲ). 14-minute walk from Yakushido Station.

2. Butterfly Stamps of the Americas: Selections from the Kamei Shogo Collection

亀井昭伍切手コレクションより「北米・中米・南米の蝶切手」

Through February 28

Central Sendai

The butterfly stamp exhibition is a yearly event at Kamei Museum, with the particulars of the theme changing each year so that even regulars to the event will have something new to see each time. This year, the theme is butterfly stamps from the Americas, from antique stamps to contemporary ones. Butterfly fans may also want to check out the museum's permanent butterfly collection of 14,000 preserved specimens from around the world.

Hours: 10:00–16:00 (last entry 15:30)

Closed days: Mondays (open if Monday is a national holiday), December 28–January 4

Admission: ¥300, seniors 65+ and children ages high school and younger free

Event details: kameimuseum.or.jp

Museum website (English): kameimuseum.or.jp/english

Location: Museum of Kamei Collection (カメイ美術館). Map here.

Access: 4-minute walk from Itsutsubashi Station

3. Zao Snow Monster Light-Up

蔵王樹氷ライトアップ

Through February 28

Zao Onsen, Yamagata

Snow monsters are a phenomenon that occur only in places with just the right combination of snow, wind, and frigid temperatures. Under the right conditions, trees get covered in layer upon layer of ice and snow, transforming them into phantasmagoric shapes. Mount Zao is one of the best places to see these "creatures." The most convenient way to access them is via the Zao Ropeway at the Zao Onsen Ski Resort. Visitors can simply ride the gondola up to take in the view from the observation deck at the top, or take a short walk from the gondola station to trapse around the snow monsters forest and see them up close. At night, the chimerical appearance of the snow monsters is played up with colorful lighting.

Hours: 17:00–21:00

Closed days: Tuesdays, weekdays (except Friday)

Fee: Admission to the light-up is free, but you'll need to ride the ropeway to get there, which costs ¥3,000 round-trip.

Snow monster details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Official event page: zaoropeway.co.jp

Location: Zao Onsen Ski Resort (蔵王温泉スキー場). Map here.

Access from Sendai Station: 85 minutes by bus from Sendai Station, followed by a short walk and gondola ride. From Sendai Station East Exit bus stop 76 (仙台駅東口76番), board bus bound for Zao Onsen Bus Terminal (蔵王温泉バスターミナル). Alight at Zao Onsen Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal, walk to the Zao Ski Resort building, where you can catch the gondola. Reservations are required for the bus; see details here. If you can't make a reservation for the Sendai bus or don't want to spend the night, consider catching the one from Yamagata Station, which doesn't require reservations. Note that the Sendai-bound departs too early for you to catch the light-up on a day trip. If you're coming direct from Sendai, you'll either need to spend the night in Zao Onsen, or return via the Yamagata Station–bound bus.

Access from Yamagata Station: About 35 minutes from Yamagata Station. From bus stop 1 in front of Yamagata Station (山形駅前一番), board bus bound for Zao Onsen (蔵王温泉). Alight at Zao Onsen Bus Terminal (蔵王温泉バスターミナル), the final stop. Timetables here.

4. Kearashi of Kesennuma Bay

気仙沼の気嵐

Through late February

Kesennuma, Miyagi

Kearashi is a kind of ice fog, a rare winter phenomenon. When the air temperature drops very low (around -20° Celsius) but the surface of a body of water remains relatively warm, vapor rising off the water freezes into wisps of fog so thick, it seems as if one could reach out and grasp it. An easily accessible place known for kearashi is Kesennuma Bay. It's a popular sight among local photography enthusiasts, who gather early in the morning to capture it on camera. Recommended viewing spots with convenient access include the the seawall below Kesennuma Plaza Hotel, and the area around the Kesennuma Fishing Port/Kesennuma Fish Market.

Time: Best viewing is for about 1 hour around sunrise

Fee: Free

Details: kesennuma-kanko.jp

Location: Pretty much anywhere with good views of Kesennuma Bay (気仙沼湾). Map here.

Access (Kesennuma Fishing Port/Kesennuma Fish Market): 18-minute walk from Minami-Kesennuma Station.

Access (Kesennuma Plaza Hotel area): A 10-minute walk from the Minamimachi highway bus stop. At Sendai Station (仙台駅), board bus bound for Minamisanriku・Kesennuma (南三陸・気仙沼). Alight at the Minamimachi (南町) bus stop. Timetable here.

5. Lake Inawashiro Shibukigori

猪苗代湖のしぶき氷

Through late February

Inawashiro, Fukushima

The colder and windier the weather gets, the more beautiful this "dancing ice" becomes. Shibukigori are natural ice sculptures formed as a result of the harsh winter conditions in the area, and are at their best when the weather has been frigid and windy.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Details: kanko-koriyama.gr.jp

Location: Near Tenjinhama (天神浜). Map here.

Access: 3.4 kilometers from Sekito Station. This area gets heavy snow in winter, so how long it takes to walk depends on road/sidewalk conditions.

6. Snow monster snowcat & backcountry tours

みやぎ蔵王の樹氷めぐり

Through March 4

Zao-machi, Miyagi

Sumikawa Snow Park serves as the base for snow monster sightseeing on the Miyagi side of Mount Zao. Snowcat vehicle tours offer a convenient way to see them without having to do any hiking or be out in the cold for long. If you decide you want a more adventurous way to see the snow monsters, Sumikawa Snow Park also offers backcountry snowshoeing, snowboarding, and/or skiing tours through M's Guide.

Time: 2 departures per day, at 11:00 & 13:30

Snowcat tour fee: From ¥5,000 adults, ¥4,000 children.

Backcountry tour fee: From ¥4,500. Fee varies by course.

Reservations: Required

Snow monster details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Sumikawa Snow Park details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Backcountry tour details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Meeting place: Miyagi Zao Sumikawa Snow Park (宮城蔵王すみかわスノーパーク). Map here.

Access: By free shuttle bus, 125 minutes from Sendai Station or 40 minutes from Togatta Onsen. Reservations required, see here for details.

7. Snowshoe trekking with Kotori House 

雪上トレッキング

Through March 14

Zao-machi, Miyagi

Enjoy a guided snowshoe tour of the winter landscape of the Mount Zao area, including winter wildlife observation. No reservations are necessary, and gear rental is included!

Time: Sundays 10:00–12:00 (Please arrive by 9:50 to register). Also offered February 11 and 23 (public holidays).

Fee: ¥300 (includes snowshoe rental)

Reservations: None needed

Details: mifi.main.jp

Location: Meeting point is Kotori House (ことりはうす). Map here.

8. Ina Suki! fireworks

いなスキ!雪花火

Through March 20

Inawashiro, Fukushima

Weekly fireworks shows at the Inawashiro Ski Resort. Enjoy a view of fireworks against the snowy backdrop of Mount Bandai. Though the fireworks shows are open to everyone, they're especially great for skiers and snowboarders looking to end a day on the slopes with a bang!

Time: Saturday evenings. Fireworks start at 18:00

Admission: Free

Details: inawashiro-ski.com/snf

Location: Inawashiro Skijo Chuo + Minero (猪苗代スキー場[中央x三ネロ]). Map here.

Access: By free shuttle bus from Inawashiro (猪苗代駅) and Koriyama (郡山駅) Stations. Reservations are required for the Koriyama Station shuttle bus. Note that shuttle buses do not run late enough to allow for firework viewing as a day trip. If you want to come by bus and catch the fireworks, you'll need to stay overnight at one of the nearby inns. For shuttle bus details, see here: inawashiro-ski.com/access.

9. The People Who Lived Through Disaster

特集震災10年―災害を生きた人々

Through March 21
Central Sendai

Coronavirus and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake are not the first natural disasters to have struck Sendai. Generations past also suffered earthquakes, tsunamis, epidemics, flooding, volcanic eruptions . . . the list goes on. How did people cope with disaters with back then? This exhibition answers that question through documents, paintings, and other historical materials. 

Hours: 9:00–16:45 (last entry 16:15)

Closed: Mondays and the day after a public holiday (If Monday is a public holiday, the museum will be open Monday and closed the following non-holiday day.)

Admission: ¥460 adults & college students, ¥230 high school students, ¥110 junior high & elementary students

Exhibition details: city.sendai.jp/museum/tenji

Museum details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Location: Sendai City Museum (仙台市博物館). Map here.

Access: 8-minute walk from South Exit 1 of International Center Station

10. Sairi Hinamatsuri

齋理屋敷春の企画展「齋理の雛まつり」

Through March 21

Marumori, Miyagi

Hina Matsuri is a traditional Japanese celebration involving customs traditionally associated with little girls and femininity. Famous crafts associated with the festival are the tsurushibina, mobiles of handmade fabric ornaments and dolls hung on red cord; and hina ningyo, ornate dolls representing the emperor, empress, and their court. To celebrate Hina Matsuri, hina ningyo dolls are displayed on steps covered in red carpet.

Sairi Yashiki is a great place to take in one of these Hina Matsuri displays, as the estate itself exudes traditional Japanese charm. It once belonged to the Saito family, wealthy merchants who plied their trade in Marumori for generations.

Hours: 9:30–16:00

Admission: ¥620 adults, ¥310 children

Closed days: Monday (If Monday is a national holiday, it will be open Monday and closed the following day instead.)

Event details: miyagi-kankou.or.jp

Sairi Yashiki details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Location: Sairi Yashiki (齋理屋敷). Map here.

Access: 30-minute walk or 2.5 kilometers by free rental cycle from Marumori Station

11. Kokeshi-bina Matsuri

こけしびなまつり

Through March 21

Zao-machi, Miyagi

Hina Matsuri is a traditional Japanese celebration involving customs traditionally associated with little girls and femininity. Famous crafts associated with the festival are the tsurushibina, mobiles of handmade fabric ornaments and dolls hung on red cord; and hina ningyo, ornate dolls representing the emperor, empress, and their court. To celebrate of Hina Matsuri, hina ningyo dolls are displayed on steps covered in red carpet.

The Zao Kokeshi Museum is offering their own spin on the tradition, with an exhibition of kokeshi dolls carved and painted to resemble hina ningyo. There will also be a display of bamboo lanterns, and a workshop where you can make your own!

Hours: 9:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30)

Admission: ¥300 adults, ¥150 children ages elementary to junior high school, children ages kindergarten & younger free.

Event details: kokeshizao.com

Museum details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Location: Zao Kokeshi Museum (蔵王こけし館). Map here.

Access: 70 minutes from Sendai Station by highway bus, followed by a 10-minute walk.

Board bus bound for Murata・Zao・Togatta (村田・蔵王・遠刈田) at Sendai Station Bus Stop 33. Alight at the Togatta Onsen (遠刈田温泉) bus stop. Timetable here.

12. Matsushima Rikyu Pageant of Starlight

松島離宮光のページェント

Through March 31

Matushima, Miyagi

Rikyu is Matsushima's newest sightseeing facility, opened just last fall. The strolling garden here, designed to resemble a detached palace garden, is likely to prove especially atmospheric during this evening illumination.

Light-up hours: 16:30–22:00 (last entry 21:30)

Admission: ¥1,000 adults, ¥600 children ages elementary school and older, children ages kindergarten and younger free

Official page: rikyu-m.com/hikape

Location: Matushima Rikyu (松島離宮). Map here.

Access: 2-minute walk from Matsushimakaigan Station

13. Naruko Onsen Ekimae Illumination

鳴子温泉駅前イルミネーション

Through March 31

Naruko Onsen, Miyagi

A cheery winter illumination in a great location: Naruko Onsen! The village's kokeshi doll motif and blanket of snow add a dose of kawaii and wintery charm to this quaint illumination. After enjoying the lights, warm up with a dip in one of the town's many onsen. The plaza where the illumination is being held has a free teyu hand bath, and there's a free ashiyu foot bath at Hotto Park across the street. Full-body baths are available at numerous public bathouses and inns throughout the village.

Hours: 17:00–24:00

Admission: Free

Details: welcome-naruko.jp

Location: Naruko Onsen Ekimae Yu-meguri Plaza (鳴子温泉駅前ゆめぐり広場). Map here.

Access: 3-minute walk from Naruko-Onsen Station

14. Swans at Lake Inawashiro

猪苗代湖の白鳥

Through late March

Inawashiro, Fukushima

Lake Inawashiro is a well-known destination for birdwatchers, with about two thousand swans, plus other migratory waterfowl, flocking here to overwinter. Though some of the swans do hang around through late March, the best viewing is typically mid-January to mid-February, when the swan population is at its peak.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Details: bandaisan.or.jp

Location: Lake Inawashiro Shidahama Beach (志田浜). Map here.

Access: 1-minute walk from Inawashirokohan Station

15. Tom & Jerry Exhibition

トムとジェリー展

February 6–March 7

Central Sendai

If you grew up in the United States, then Tom & Jerry need no introduction. They are a classic animated cat-and-mouse duo created by none other than Hanna-Barbera. This exhibition will feature about 250 original animation frames, storyboards, sketches, and significant pieces of important memorabilia related to the show's creation. There will also be a pop-up shop selling limited-edition Tom & Jerry goods, including Sendai-exclusive designs featuring Tom & Jerry up to their usual antics beneath the famous statue of Date Masamune at the site of Aoba Castle.

Hours: 13:00-20:00 weekdays, 10:00-20:00 weekends (last entry 30 minutes prior to closing)

Closed days: None

Admission: ¥1,200 adults, ¥1,000 college and high school students, ¥650 junior high and elementary school students

Official web page: khb-tv.co.jp

Location: EBeanS (イービーンズ). Map here.

Access: Across the street from Sendai Station

16. Sanriku・Ofunato Camellia Festival

三陸・大船渡 つばきまつり

February 6–March 21

Ofunato, Iwate

It's peak camellia season in Ofunato! This is the best time of year to see camellias in bloom at the World Camellia Museum. Most years, special events and workshops round out the festival, attractions like taiko drum performances, camellia oil massages, and workshops where visitors can make their own camellia-based beauty products. There are usually also food stalls offering camellia-driven cuisine; specialties such as camellia tea, camellia crepes, and savories smoked with camellia.

Due to concern over coronavirus, some of these side attractions might be cancelled this year and some, like the workshops, are by reservation only. The details are still TBA, so please check the links below for the latest information. Regardless of which side attractions are offered, the camellia flowers will be as beautiful as ever!

Hours: 9:00–14:00

Admission: ¥500 adults & high school students, ¥300 children ages elementary to junior high

Closed days: None during festival period

Event details: city.ofunato.iwate.jp

Museum details: sekaino-tsubakikan.jp

Location: World Camelia Museum (世界の椿館). Map here.

Access: 45 minutes by bus from Sakari Station. From the Sakari Station (盛駅前) bus stop, board Goishi Line (碁石線) bus bound for Goishi Kaigan (碁石海岸). Alight at Goishi Kaigan (碁石海岸) bus stop. Timetable here.

17. Snowman & Snow Sculpture Contest

雪だるま・雪像コンテスト

February 7

Shichikashuku, Miyagi

A snowman and snow sculpture contest in the rural town of Shichikashuku. Though participation in the competition is open only to town residents, all are welcome to come and view their creations!

Coming for the event also makes a great excuse to check out some of Shichikashuku's many hidden-gem attractions, from scenic nature spots like Lake Choro to innovative new facilities being brought to life by entrepreneur-laureate Yoichi Fujita.

Hours: 9:30~

Admission: Free

Event details: miyagi-kankou.or.jp 

Location: Various locations throughout Shichikashuku (七ヶ宿町). Map here.

Access: About 50 minutes by bus from Shiroishi (白石駅) or Shiroishi-Zao Station (白石蔵王駅). Board Shichikashuku-Shiroishi Line (七ヶ宿白石線) bus bound for Yakuba・Nananiro Hiroba (役場・なないろひろば). Stops between Shichikashuku Dam Park (七ヶ宿ダム公園) and Nanairohiroba (なないろひろば) offer access to Shichikashuku sightseeing spots. If you're not sure where exactly to head, the centrally located Nanairohiroba bus stop is probably the best stop to alight at, as the shopping center there serves as a travelers' rest area, community center, and transportation hub. Timetable here.

18. From the Permanent Collection: Exhibition 4

第4期コレクション展示

February 9–April 11

Central Sendai

About one hundred seldom displayed pieces from the museum's permanent collection will be exhibited. These include Neo-Dadaist pieces and works by famous Western artists like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, in addition to numerous Japanese artists. One Japanese artist of note is Tamiji Kitagawa, a Japanese painter who lived in Mexico for fifteen years and was friends with Diego Rivera. The influence of Mexican Renaissance on his paintings is undeniable.

Hours: 9:30–17:00 (last entry 16:30)

Closed: Monday

Admission: ¥300 adults, ¥150 college students, children ages high school & younger free

Language: Limited English

Details (English): pref.miyagi.jp

Location: The Miyagi Museum of Art (宮城県美術館). Map here.

Access: 5-minute walk from International Center Station

19. Mahoroba Winter Blooming Peony Festival

まほろば冬咲くぼたんまつり

February 11–14

Takahata, Yamagata

These winter-blooming peonies, each snug in their straw hut (to protect it from wind and snow), are a heartwarming sight on a cold winter's day. In the evenings, each hut even gets its own little spotlight. In addition to flower viewing, visitors can also purchase a pot of these winter blooming peonies for themselves to grow at home. Food stalls will be selling warming Japanese fare, like oden, as well as local specialties, like Yonezawa beef kushiyaki.

Hours: 10:00–20:00 at Taiyokan Kaijo (main event venue), 9:30–16:00 at Yoneori Kanko Center, 10:00–16:30 at Takahata Winery, 9:00–19:00 at Michi no Eki Takahata

Admission: Free

Details: takahata.info

Location: Main event venue is Taiyokan Kaijo (太陽館会場), map here. The other event venues are Takahata Winery (高畠ワイナリー), Michi no Eki Takahata (道の駅たかはた), Yoneori Kankou Center (よねおりかんこうセンター).

Access: The main event venue is the plaza directly in front of Takahata Station. Takahata Winery is a 13-minute walk from the station, and Yoneori Kanko Center a 22-minute walk.

20. Aizu Painted Candle Festival

会津絵ろうそくまつり

February 12–13

Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima

About fifteen-thousand hand-painted candles are nestled in the snow at historic locations around town, like Tsurugajo Castle and Oyakuen Gardens. Enjoy views of these scenic spots by candelight. The candles are all one-of-a-kind, hand-painted in traditional Aizu fashion or set in handmade bamboo candleholders.

Hours: 17:30–19:30

Festival fee: None

Admission (Tsurugajo Castle): ¥410 adults, ¥150 children

Admission (Oyakuen): ¥330 adults, ¥270 high school students, ¥160 children ages elementary to junior high 

Official website: aizu.com/erousoku

Location: Tsurugajo Castle Park (鶴ヶ城公園) and Oyaku-en (御薬園). Maps here and here.

Access (Tsurugajo): 20 minutes by Haikara-san or Akabe bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, followed by a 7-minute walk. Alight at Tsurugajo Iriguchi (鶴ヶ城入口) bus stop. Bus info here (English), bus timetable here.

Access (Oyakuen): 30 minutes by Haikara-san bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Alight at Oyaku-en (御薬園) bus stop. Bus info here (English), bus timetable here.

Access from Sendai: Aizu-Wakamatsu is about 150 minutes from Sendai by direct highway bus. No reservations are needed. Timetable here.

21. Eboshi Setsujo Fireworks Show

えぼし雪上花火大会

February 13

Zao-machi, Miyagi

A fireworks show at Eboshi Resort, one of Miyagi's most popular ski resorts. In addition to the fireworks, local ski and snowboard instructors will ride down the slopes holding electric lanterns, looking something like a rave parade on snow.

Hours: 19:00–20:00

Admission: Free

Event details: eboshi.co.jp

Ski resort details (English): visitmiyagi.com

Location: Miyagi Zao Eboshi Resort (みやぎ蔵王えぼしリゾート). Map here.

Access: By shuttle bus from Sendai Station or Nagamachi Station. Reservations required. See here for details.

22. Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival

上杉雪灯まつり

February 13–14

Yonezawa, Yamagata

A lively snow festival boasting interactive snow sculptures and hundreds of lanterns made of snow. A Shinto ceremony also takes place during the festival, on a stage made of snow.

Time: 13:00–21:00 Feb 13, 13:00–20:00 Feb 14

Admisson: Free

Reservations: Required (as a cororonavirus prevention measure). Can book online or by telephone; see official website for details.

Official website: yukidourou.yonezawa-matsuri.com

Location: Uesugi Shrine (上杉神社) and Matsugasaki Park (松岬公園). Maps here and here.

Access: 10 minutes by shuttle bus from Yonezawa Station.

23. Shinjo Snow Festival

新庄雪まつり

February 13–14

Shinjo, Yamagata

2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Shinjo Snow Festival, and they're keeping it one hundred! Highlights include fireworks, giant snow sculptures, snowball fights, sledding, banana boat–snowmobiling, food stalls serving warming local cuisine, and more!

Hours: 10:00–20:00 Feb 13, 9:00–15:00 Feb 14

Admission: Free

Official website: experienceshinjo.com

Location: Mogami Central Park (最上中央公園). Map here.

Access: 7-minute walk from Shinjo Station

Access to Shinjo Station (新庄駅) from Sendai: About 160 minutes by train or 140 minutes by highway bus. For highway bus details, see here.

24. Special Winter Opening of the Akiu Otaki Botanical Garden

秋保大滝植物園の冬季特別開園

February 14

Akiu, Sendai

The Akiu Otaki Botanical Gardens are home to hundreds of different species of mountain plants. The gardens are typically closed in winter, but every once in a while they offer a special one-day-only opening. For photography enthusiasts, this February opening is a good chance to capture the garden looking like a winter wonderland. For botany enthusiasts, it's a great time to observe buds and other subtle signs of plants just waking from their winter dormancy. Visiting the garden for this special winter opening is also a great excuse to stop by Akiu Otaki Falls next door to see it in all its winter glory.

Hours: 9:30–15:00

Admission: Free

Event details: sendai-green-association.jp

Location: Akiu Otaki Botanical Garden (秋保大滝植物園). Map here.

Access from Sendai Station: 60–80 minutes by bus. At Sendai Station West Exit Bus Pool Platform 8 (仙台駅西口バスプール8番のりば), board Akiu Line (秋保線) bus bound for Akiu Otaki (秋保大滝). Alight at Akiu Otaki. Timetable here.

Access from Ayashi Station: About 40 minutes by bus. From Ayashi Station Bus Platform 2 (愛子駅2番乗り場), board a #83, 84, 85, 86, or 87 Akiu Homen Line (秋保方面線) bus bound for Nojiri (野尻町北) or Futakuchi (二口). Alight at Akiu Otaki (秋保大滝) bus stop. Timetable here.

25. Fukuanuma Beach Clean

深沼ビーチクリーン

February 14 (& March 14)

Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai

A volunteer event that's easy for anyone to join! The beach clean takes place at Fukanuma Beach, what used to be a swimming beach in the years before the 2011 tsunami. The bus stop you alight at to access the beach is next to the ruins of Arahama Elementary School, a building destroyed by the tsunami but preserved as a memorial. It would make a good side trip on your way back from the beach clean, one that would help you get a sense of the scale of the 2011 tsunami, and how that disaster has shaped Sendai.

Hours: 10:30–11:30

Fee: Free

Reservations: None needed

Details: sentabi.jp

Meeting place: Kaigan Park Center House (海岸公園センターハウス). Map here.

Access: About 15 minutes by bus from Arai Station, followed by a 15-minute walk. From Arai Station Bus Platform 2 (荒井駅2番のりば), board a Fukanuma Line (深沼線) bus bound for Kyu-Arahama Shogakko (旧荒浜小学校). Alight at Kyu-Arahama Shogakko-mae (旧荒浜小学校前). Map here, timetables here.

26. Gassan Asahi Snow Festival

月山あさひ雪まつり

February 14

Tsuruoka, Yamagata

A hometown winter festival deep in snow country! Enjoy simple snowbound fun, like a "Godzilla" snow slide, kanjiki (traditional snowshoe) walks, and an axe-wielding snowman; plus only-in-inaka carnival games like "kyodai kuma strikeout," where players throw objects at a target shaped like a giant attacking bear. Visitors will also have the opportunity to don traditional snow attire (as pictured above) and have photos taken by a professional photographer for just ¥200.

Hours: 10:00–14:00

Admission: Free. A fee is charged for some activities.

Details: event.asahi-kankou.jp

Location: The outdoor area around Gassan Asahi Museum Village (月山あさひ博物村). Map here.

27. Forest of Light Museum: Aizu Terasu

体感!光の杜ミュージアム「アイヅテラス」

February 19–March 7

Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima

A uniquely Japanese winter illumination—at a samurai castle! In addition to the standard Christmas lights, there will also projection mapping and ambient rainbow lighting.

Hours: 18:00–20:00 (until 21:00 Fridays and Saturdays)

Admission: Free

Details: aizukanko.com

Location: Tsurugajo Castle Park (鶴ヶ城公園). Map here.

Access: 20 minutes by bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Board a Haikara-san Town bus, alight at Tsurugajo Kita-guchi (鶴ヶ城北口) bus stop. Bus info here (English), timetable here.  

Access from Sendai: Aizu-Wakamatsu is about 150 minutes from Sendai by direct highway bus. No reservations are needed. Timetable here.

28. Zoorasians' Picture Book of Classical Concerts: Dandyism

音楽の絵本 Dandyism

February 21

Zao-machi, Miyagi

A classical music concert, with all the players dressed up as anthropomorphic animals. The concept was born out of a desire to make classical music concerts more appealing and welcoming for children (but fans of all ages are welcome!). The founding group of this concept, the Zoorasian Brass quintet, will perform accompanied by two of their sister groups: Tsuru Usagi and Saxofox.

Time: Doors open 13:30, concert starts 14:00

Tickets: ¥2,000 adults, ¥1,500 children ages high school & younger at the door. Tickets can be purchased in advance for a discount.

Reservations: None needed

Details: town.zao.miyagi.jp

Zoorasian Brass official website (English): superkids.co.jp/z-brass

Location: Zao-machi Furusato Bunkakan Gozain Hall (蔵王町ふるさと文化会館 ございんホール). Map here.

Access: About 60 minutes by highway bus from Sendai Station, followed by a 4-minute walk. At Sendai Station, board bus bound for Murata・Zao・Togatta (村田・蔵王・遠刈田). Alight at Zao-machi Yakuba-mae (蔵王町役場前) bus stop. Timetable here.

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