One of Japan’s greatest hikiyama (float) festivals, the Chichibu Yomatsuri is held 2-3 December every year and attracts about 400,000 visitors over the two days. Indeed, the festival, which has over 300 years of history, is famous throughout Japan and was even registered as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in 2016.
While there are also events on the eve of the 2nd (including fireworks in Hitsujiyama Park), it is the festival on the 3rd for which the people come. Four large floats the size of small houses, as well as two kasaboko (smaller decorated floats), are pulled through the streets of Chichibu, and, in the afternoon, stages are pulled out from the main floats and kabuki performances are given in front of the public. Then, at night, with drum music coming from the moveable yatai-bayashi, the floats—beautifully decorated with lanterns—are pulled up the slope of Dango Hill before a fireworks display lights the winter sky.
The official site of Chichibu City’s Visitor Guide offers a PDF detailing routes, but unfortunately it is only in Japanese. The schedule, however, is more or less fixed each year with the processions beginning at midday on the 2nd and 9am on the 3rd. There are fireworks on both days from 7pm (lasting until late in the evening on the 3rd).