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Release | Takako Chiba

The 31st “Jozankei Onsen Keiryu Koinobori” in 2017


“Jozankei Onsen Keiryu Koinobori”, which started from 1986, celebrates its 31st year in 2017. There are lots of secret works put on these Koinobori fish in Jozankei hot spring which swims the sky from April 15 to May 7th.


“Jozankei Onsen Keiryu Koinobori” started 31 years ago, from an idea by a local company

The colorful Koinobori fish “swimming” freely in the sky of Jozankei hot spring is “Jozankei Onsen Keiryu Koinobori” which became the icon of spring in Sapporo. “Oh, it’s finally spring. Cherry blossoms should start blooming soon,”, that is what people from Sapporo feel by watching the Koinobori fish on the news. 
About 400 Koinobori fish will swim the hot spring district from April 15 to May 7 in this year, as usual. 
定山渓温泉渓流鯉のぼり▲From late April to early May, Jozankei hot spring becomes extremely colorful with Koinobori fish and cherry blossom flowers.
* The photo is provided. 

This Koinobori started from a word by the previous president of a local company in Jozankei Morita Kogyosho. He said: “Why don’t we put ropes between hotels and let Koinobori swim the sky?” Jozankei Tourist Association operates the event every year, and Morita Kogyosho continues to put these Koinobori for 31 years. 


The veteran who is involved in this event for 31 years is the walking dictionary of Jozankei Koinobori! 

On April 15, I visited the site to put Koinobori up in the sky. It was the rooftop of Shogetsu Grand Hotel, and people started working from 8 AM. As usual, they collected used Koinobori from houses and companies in Hokkaido. Adding the new Koinobori, there will be about 400 Koinobori put in Jozankei hot spring. Few Koinobori had already put up from several days ago at Jozankei Shrine, etc., and the day I visited was the day to put ropes and Koinobori across Jozankei Hotel and Jozankei Onsen Hotel Sankeien, and across Hotel Sansui and the other side. 

章月グランドホテル屋上での定山渓温泉渓流鯉のぼり作業現場▲There were already a rope between Shogetsu Grand Hotel and Hotel Shikanoyu
* The rooftop of Shogetsu Grand Hotel is usually unavailable to the public without special permission. 

章月グランドホテル屋上での定山渓温泉渓流鯉のぼり作業現場▲The rope to put Konobori fish. 

鯉のぼり掲揚作業をする人▲Aligning the folded Koinobori fish. 

As soon as Morita Kogyosho staffs gather at the rooftop, they started working on. They looked very much used to work, as they are involved in this for 31 years, and completed procedure steadily. Among the staff, there was one veteran man giving directions and answering questions. He looked very old, but his every move was quick.  

森田興業所の中島さん▲Mr. Nakajima from Morita Kogyosho.
According to the foreman Yuji Kitajima, the manager of construction in Morita Kogyosho, “Mr. Nakajima is the only man who is involved in the Koinobori event for 31 years continuously. He must be 77 or 78 years old in this year. He is not just a veteran; he is a walking dictionary.” 

鯉のぼりの準備中▲Koinobori fish which seems to be aligned randomly, but…

鯉のぼりの設計図▲colors and shapes are planned carefully. 

There are handmade secrets in Jozankei Koinobori…

Koinobori needs “wind” to swim in the sky, but that wind sometimes becomes an “enemy”. Mr. Kitajima told us: “If the wind is this soft and the temperature is about today (9 to 10 degrees Celsius), there are no problems. But we sometimes get blizzard even in April. It is hard to continue working on days like that. If the wind is too strong, we cannot align Koinobori fish to put on the rope. On the other hand, if there are no wind at all, Koinobori cannot swim the sky, and it does not look beautiful at all.”

森田興業所工事部長、北島裕司さん▲Yuji Kitajima, the manager of construction in Morita Kogyosho. 

鯉のぼり取り付け作業の様子▲If the wind is too strong, aligned Koinobori fish blows, making staffs hard to work. The wind of the day I visited was very soft and right. 

There are big onsen hotels along Toyohira River in Jozankei hot spring. In that situation, it will be like eddies of the wind around high buildings. Therefore, it needs a little work to avoid Koinobori between the buildings getting tangled. 

鯉のぼりをとりつける作業▲A pole made with something like polyvinyl chloride pipe, attached a small hook with vinyl tapes. This is a secret to avoid getting Koinobori tangled by the wind. 

鯉のぼりをとりつける用具▲They put tricks and secrets after lots of trial and error for a long time. 

So this 2-meters pole, which is called “weight”, is used to put Koinobori on the ropes after trial and error. The veteran Mr. Nakajima said that it was first made as a test to avoid Koinobori getting tangled. They found out that it is much more useful than they thought, so they decided to keep using it. 
This handmade secret no.1 is a pole made of something like polyvinyl chloride pipe, attached a small hook with vinyl tapes. 

鯉のぼりに入れる骨▲Putting cut moso bamboo into each Koinobori. 

The second secret is called “bones”. This is a thin cut moso bamboo, to put into Koinobori, just like a backbone. With these secrets, they finish the beautifully Koinobori fish swimming by the wind. 

Although these secrets, Koinobori sometimes get tangled, so they do a maintenance one time during the event. 


鯉のぼり取り付け作業の様子▲Koinobori gets put up under directions from the veteran Mr. Nakajima. 

“Anyways, the biggest problem is how to avoid getting tangled. So we try many new things even though it is the 31st event. Also, because we use the same Koinobori every year, they get old. Those who ripped are fixed by us, old men, with hand stitch. Recently, our company bought a sewing machine for Koinobori. It should help us a lot.” Mr. Kitajima told us. 


Other than Jozankei hot spring hotels, there are Koinobori in footbath, Jozankei Shrine, and suspension bridge

Koinobori put on the ropes at regular intervals at the rooftop, were slowly put in the sky from Shogetsu Grand Hotel to Hotel Shikanoyu. Koinobori which contain full of the wind in their stomach look so nice! 

Koinobori first came from Chinese myth. A Koi fish swam up the violent waterfall in the upstream of Yellow River, became a dragon and went up to the sky. From that myth, people reflect their will into Koinobori fish, that their children would grow up healthy and make a great career in the future. 

鯉のぼりを吊るす作業▲Putting Koinobori one by one into the sky. 


During the event, Koinobori swims not only between the hotels but also the footbath, Jozankei Shrine, and suspension bridge. I feel like Koinobori swim in the sky cheers me up. It is secret that I thought Koinobori’s stomach full of wind look delicious. 

定山渓神社の鯉のぼり▲There are small Koinobori in Jozankei Shrine. I became to want Shishamo fish when I saw these…

定山渓温泉渓流鯉のぼり全景▲The red suspension bridge has Koinobori, too! 
* The photo is provided.

Koinobori is available from April 15 to May 7. Why don’t you soak into Jozankei Onsen, look up the sky for Koinobori, and get charged? 

定山渓温泉渓流鯉のぼり* The photo is provided. 

If you’d like to fill your stomach, Jozankei Apple Pie, which is also introduced in Hokkaido Likers, is recommended. 


Related Links

- Jozankei Onsen
  • The 31st “Jozankei Onsen Keiryu Koinobori” in 2017

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Takako Chiba