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Chichibu is a mountainous area in the western part of Saitama Prefecture. The clear upper reaches of the Arakawa, one of the large rivers pouring into Tokyo Bay, run through the valleys and mountains of the Chichibu area, with the 2,500-meter (8,202 feet) Okuchichibu mountains covered with dense coniferous forests. Chichibu gets very hot in summer and very cold in winter, as is typical in inland areas. The area has a religious atmosphere, having 33 sacred places that are dedicated to Kannon, a Buddhist deity known as the Goddess of Mercy.
Chichibu Shrine stands in a valley and is regarded as the gateway to the Chichibu mountains. A festival held at the shrine on December 2 and 3 has a 300-year history and is known as "Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival) for its splendid events held at night. Festive floats, each weighing more than 10 tons and decorated with rows of lanterns, are carried through town, streets are brightly lit by numerous lanterns, and fireworks are set off, turning night into day around the whole town. On December 3, the festival culminates when the floats are noisily pulled up a steep slope called Dango-zaka.
Photo: The float with many lanterns, the highlight of the Chichibu Festival. (Saitama Prefecture)
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