Culture alert! I checked the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival out this year. I'll sum it up quickly, the internet can give you more details if you care.
Every year the 42 year old men of the village gather on top of a giant wooden pyre, all Wicker Man style. Then the other villagers try to light it on fire! Holy shit, danger!
But, all the 25 year old men in the village protect them. With their faces. Hunh?
You heard me. Essentially, everyone gets a stick, lights it on fire, then pummels these 25 year old dudes. Everyone is very drunk. Very.
Meanwhile, the 42 year olds are throwing down more and more sticks, inviting more madness.
It is INSANE.
At first, the children of the village are given sticks fire sticks. I'm talking 3-year-olds on their parents shoulders. With fire. Being encouraged to burn their neighbors faces.
Like I said, madness. I should also note that Nozawa Onsen is a huge ski destination for Australians. So expect organized, drunken rioting by the Japanese villagers, and unorganized, drunken rioting by the Australians. There are about a hundred staff on hand to keep the lines at bay.
I haven't known more than a handful of Australians in my life, so I'm trying not to pass judgement on an entire nation based on the actions of a few of their kids. Is there a Jersey Shore in Australia? Because I have a feeling that those were the minority in attendance.
What's with the shouting "Blllllllaaaaaaap!" thing. Is that an Australian thing?
Don't worry, the pushing crowd quickly jumps back once the pyre goes up.
RIP to all those poor 42 year olds. Straight up Logan's Run.
What else does Nozawa Onsen have to offer?
Onsen of course!
Besides the onsens in the hotels and ryokan, there are 13 public baths scattered around town. Totally free to enter, though you are encouraged to drop some coins in a bowl outside.
There is even a stamp rally.
Very cool spot. Keep in mind, though, that these public baths are quite small and quite hot. A few of them were barely big enough for 2 people. The best one, in my opinion is O-yu - 大湯. It has space, and 2 baths at different temps.
Nozawa Onsen is also a popular ski destination. Hence the massive influx of Australians.
And be sure to eat some nozawana, the local pickled vegetable. Nozawana omelet with a glass of local sake. Nice lunch, son!