This Festival in Japan Challenges You to Spend a Night in the Extreme Cold

Temperatures often fall below -20 °C.

38th Shibare Festival was held on the 2nd and 3rd of February at Rikubetsu City, the coldest city in Japan, which is located in east Hokkaido. To give a detailed report, Hokkaido Walker™ participated in this extremely cold festival.

Reckless adults gathered for the festival from across the country! We spent a harsh but an exciting night!

Rikubetsu City
is a place where the temperatures often fall below -20 °C during this period. It was surprising how many people participated in the event! The participants began arriving a few hours before the start time of 6 p.m. Amazingly, more than 8,000 people visit this city with a population of 2,400 people, every year.

The main event is the “Human Cold-Tolerance Test” and is open for all who pre-register. It is a masochistic event where participants spend a night (from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.) in an ice dome called the “balloon mansion.” Obviously, there are no stoves or heaters at all. 

This is the “balloon mansion” created for the challengers.

Even if you wear ski jackets, gloves, boots and beanies,
the extreme cold is still hard to take. Keep in mind that temperatures are still around -10?. Participants were eager to accomplish the task even though it was held at a time when the temperature was the most severe (severe cold in the Hokkaido dialect is “Shibare”) .

There were also performances, warm food and drinks, and slides aside from the balloon mansion. As the night went on, the venue became more alive.

Alcoholic drinks and Yakitori are essentials in the cold! Eat it as soon as possible or it will freeze.

At 6 p.m., the festival finally began! The giant bonfire named the Fire of Life was put aflame. This was the only warmth available to the participants during this freezing event. 

The Fire of Life burning in the center of the venue.

There were various performances held on the stage even in the cold weather, but the atmosphere was enveloped by the heat and unity of the challengers. Some enjoyed BBQ with their stoves and others queued up to enjoy the hot street food. Fireworks were launched, and the cold festival got heated up! 

People lining up for the warm food! Warm yourself up to the core!

The Shibare fireworks lights up the dark sky.

A Towel Spin Competition also began on stage. It is a competition where the fastest person to make a wet towel freeze wins. A participant said, “My fingers soaked in a freezing bucket of water… it hurt a lot.” Although they tried to hide in the comforts of the balloon mansion, it made no difference since it was as cold as the outdoors. 


The Towel Spin Competition sees who can freeze a wet towel the fastest!

The spun towel froze in a matter of seconds, as shown on the photo.

Since temperatures drop to -24?, it is no surprise that wet clothes will freeze up immediately. 

Wet clothes will freeze up immediately.

The temperature dropped to -24?!

We entrusted our lives to a sleeping bag, a heat insulating sheet, and also to the Fire of Life. With these, we were able to get some sleep. We don’t exaggerate when we say that we were thankful to have stayed alive after we woke up.

The fire of life saved us countless times. Without it we would have given up.

“We made it! Now let’s go home!”

A total of 250 strong challengers spent a severe night together. Without any dropouts, everyone successfully made it to the morning aerobics.

Participants who are happy to have made it out alive, were filled with a strange sense of achievement.

We thought this severe experience was enough once in a lifetime, but many of the participants were willing to participate again, and some of them even wish to experience temperatures of -30?. It seems that Rikubetsu City’s
Shibare Festival has a mysterious atmosphere that attracts reckless challengers from across the country.

Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Hokkaido Walker™ (1 March 2019)

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