Japan’s biggest hot air balloon competition is on this year, with events open to public

The Honda Hot Air Balloon Grand Prix, happening from May to December 2021, also offers flight experiences for spectators

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
Staff Writer, Time Out Tokyo
Hot air balloons
Photo: Kyle Hinkson/Unsplash

Every year, the Honda Hot Air Balloon Grand Prix sees a colourful array of hot air balloons take flight, creating a whimsical sight in rural regions of Japan. The event doesn’t just start and end over the course of a weekend, though. The competition is monumental series of events that takes place over several months in several prefectures, beginning in May and ending in December. The best thing about the grand prix? You don’t even have to be at the venue to see the pilots compete high in the sky. 

Honda has just announced the schedule for the 2021 Grand Prix, which features five rounds and runs from May to December. Here are the details:

Round 1: May 3 to 5 in Tochigi

Round 2: October 15 to 17 in Iwate

Round 3: November 3 to 7 in Saga

Round 4: November 19 to 21 in Mie

Round 5: December 17 to 19 in Tochigi

A total of 40 hot air balloons will be involved in the competition, which will include 35 different ballooning events to determine the Grand Prix champion. Rather than just a simple race to the finish line, each round is divided into a series of ‘tasks’ where pilots must land the balloon on a certain number of targets. Points are awarded based on a pilot’s accuracy in positioning their hot air balloon and the skill with which they approach their destination. Some nights, the hot air balloons will even be lit up to create colourful moving displays. 

Aside from the competition, the Grand Prix also includes events the general public can participate in, like hot air balloon rides. Advance reservations will be required to participate in the flight experience; bookings will become available at a later date. 

You can visit Honda's official website for more information and event updates. 

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