The Paper Balloon Festival of Kamihinokinai is a very fantastical annual event where paper balloons float up into the dark night sky one after another. Large paper balloons are as long as 8 meters. About 100 paper balloons are launched every year. Just like hot-air balloons, the paper balloons float up from the heated air inside.
Paper balloons include the design of samurai or beautiful women often seen in traditional wood-block prints drawn on the surface, but some of them have the wishes of people written on them. This is because the purpose of this event is to make a wish. Many wishes were related to a good harvest and good health before, but nowadays people wish for road safety and success in exams as well. Wishes of people fly up into the starry sky, swaying in the wind on paper balloons.
The Paper Balloon Festival is held on February 10th every year, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. You will be able to see the most fantastical scene, especially at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm when many paper balloons are launched all at the same time. Also, anyone can write their wish on a paper balloon for free and participate in this traditional event if they arrive by 5:00 pm.
In order to get to the venue from Tokyo, get off the Shinkansen at Kakunodate Station (about 3 hours from Tokyo), change trains to Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway and you will arrive at Kamihinokinai Station in about 40 minutes. When coming from Akita Airport, take a shared-taxi from the airport to Kakunodate Station (about an hour) then take the train to Kamihinokinai Station. From Kamihinokinai Station to the venue is about 7 minutes walk. You can also arrange a tour because Kamihinokinai is located in the northwest of “Lake Tazawa,” the deepest lake in Japan, and is close to hot spring resorts, which makes it another attractive feature of this area.