Fire and Ice

In Japan, winter festivals in the past week make for interesting visual juxtapositions. Snow and Ice festivals display large illuminated sculptures for the public to enjoy. In Shingu, the end of winter is celebrated by thousand of men lighting torches on a mountain shrine. [20 photos total]

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Japanese men wear Fundoshi, a traditional Japanese undergarment and pray during the purifying body wash ceremony ahead of attending the Oto fire festival. The male-only festival celebrates the close of winter and sees nearly 2000 men run down the 538 steep stone steps from the mountain shrine. The day begins at dusk with Noboriko preparing themselves by bathing in saltwater during a purifying ceremony on a beach in Oiigahama. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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A person stands on stage in front of ice sculptures illuminated at the 66th Sapporo Snow Festival venue at Odori Park in Sapporo, northern Japan, Feb. 5. . It is expected more than 2.4 millions of visitors enjoy the festival during the week. The amount of snow transported for the festival is equivalent to 6,500 five-ton trucks. (Kimmimasa Mayama/EPA) #
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Japanese men wear Fundoshi, a traditional Japanese undergarment and pray during the purifying body wash ceremony ahead of attending the Oto fire festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6 in Shingu, Japan. Throughout the day, white colored foods are eaten and sweet white sake is enjoyed, before participants get dressed in the all-white traditional clothes specially worn for the ceremony. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Men (Noboriko) light sacred torches during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6 in Shingu, Japan. The outfit consists of all white underclothing, tights and a rope tied seven times around the waist. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Snow-made small igloos illuminate at the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival in Yunishigawa, Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, Feb. 7. (Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press) #
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Men (Noboriko) watch on as the first torch lit illuminates the area during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesGetty Images) #
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Children and men (Noboriko) watch on as sacred torches are lit during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6 in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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People stand in front of a snow sculpture of 'Star Wars' at the 66th Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo, northern Japan, Feb 5, the opening day of the mid-winter festival. It is expected than more than 2.4 millions visitor will enjoy the festival during the week. The amount of snow transported for the festival is equivalent to 6.500 five-ton trucks. (Kiminasa Mayama/EPA) #
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Men (Noboriko) watch on as the first torch lit is displayed at the shrine entrance during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6 in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Men (Noboriko) watch on as the first torch lit is displayed at the shrine entrance during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6, in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Visitors take picures of an illuminated snow sculpture of Kasuga Taisha shrine displayed at the 66th Sapporo Snow Festival venue at Odori Park in Sapporo, northern Japan, Feb. 5. (Kimmimasa Mayama/EPA) #
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Over 2000 participants receive the sacred fire from special torch bearers during the Otou Fire Festival on Mount Kamikura near the town of Shingu, Wakayama province, Japan, Feb. 6. The ancient New Year's festival, symbolizing the return of the sun and warmer spring weather, was originally based on the lunar calendar and was first documented 1400 years ago. (Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA) #
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People visit the Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival illuminated by colorful lights to produce a fantastic world in Chitose on Feb. 6. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images) #
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A child covers his mouth from smoke as participants light sacred torches during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine on Feb. 6 in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Visitors walk through colorful illuminated ice structures at the Shikotsukoonsen Ice Festival in Shikotsukoonsen, outskirts of Chitose, northern Japan, Feb. 6. The lowest temperature at the lakeside town was minus 16 degrees Celsius on Feb. 6. (Kimmimasa Mayama/EPA) #
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Men (Noboriko) light sacred torches during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine. Tradtitionally, the torches are taken home to light kitchen fires. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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The 66th Sapporo Snow Festival venue at Odori Park is seen in Sapporo, northern Japan. The amount of snow transported for the festival is equivalent to 6,500 five-ton trucks. (Kimmimasa Mayama/EPA) #
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Men (Noboriko) scale the steep steps down from the shrine during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine in Shingu, Japan. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
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Colorful lights are projected onto a large snow sculpture of the Kasuga Grand Shrine (or Kasuga Taisha) during the 66th annual Sapporo Snow Festival. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images) #
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Men (Noboriko) run down the shrine steps carrying flaming torches during the Oto Fire Festival at the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #

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