Event Report: Chichibu Whisk(e)y Matsuri 2024

Back in mid-February, around 4,000 people made their way to Saitama Prefecture for Chichibu Whisk(e)y Matsuri 2024. This year’s Matsuri was the biggest yet!

And a large portion of the attendees were not Japanese. In fact, Japan set a record for the number of foreign tourists visiting the country in February: 2.788 million. It went over 3 million in March.

While some parts of Japan struggle to deal with throngs of foreign tourists, people not speaking the nihongo, or revelers doing pull-ups in trains, the Chichibu Whisk(e)y Matsuri appears to be taking it all in stride. Altogther, there were visitors from 18 different countries.

One thing I’ve realized about the Matsuri is that compared to other festivals in Japan, it seems to have taken on the role of a “destination” whisky festival. People plan trips to Japan incorporating the Matsuri into their itineraries. There was even an entire film crew, non-Japanese, shooting a documentary this year. Companies large and small plan events before and after the Matsuri, welcoming non-Japanese managers and owners during their visit to the country.

This year’s Matsuri added a new venue, meaning there were now six different venues stretching from the Chichibu Shrine to Chichibu Station. In all, there were around 90 booths representing a huge variety of whiskies from Japan, Scotland, the US, and the rest of the world.

What’s more, it’s not just the Matsuri itself: the entire town of Chichibu seems to come out to support the visitors. This means there are plenty of food stands, performances by local artists, and much more going on besides just whisk(e)y.

One of the highlights of the Chichibu Whisk(e)y Matsuri is always the festival bottlings, generally offered by the Chichibu Distillery. Each ticket includes a chance at winning a bottle, so count yourself lucky if you do.

The date of the 2025 Matsuri have already been announced, by the way: February 16. Keep an eye on the official site for information about tickets — 2024 had a special allotment of tickets for visitors from overseas!

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