FAQ

Saga International Balloon Fiesta

The Saga International Balloon Fiesta (22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship,2016) is an international hot air balloon competition held in Saga City, Saga Prefecture. With around 100 balloons gathering at its main site on the Kase Riverside, the Saga International Balloon Fiesta is the largest event of its kind in Asia, boasting over 800,000 visitors a year!

In this FAQ, we provide an easy to understand overview of the festival, as well as a summary of the features that make it such an appealing event.

Q1. What kind of events take place at the fiesta?

The main fiesta grounds of the Saga International Balloon Fiesta (hereafter "balloon fiesta") can be divided roughly into three areas, in which we hold a variety of different events!

[Launch Site (Competition Site)]
The grassy area on the south side of the fiesta grounds is known as the Launch Site. This is where the main event, the balloon competition flights, and mooring of special shaped balloons takes place.

[Balloon Plaza]
In this area, you can visit a variety of vendors selling food and beverages, or the Honda Welcome Booth, where special events are held and official goods sold.

[Rest Station]
Located on the north side of the fiesta grounds, the Rest Station includes the Event Area, Umakamon Food Market, and Furusato Bussankan Regional Product Center. At the Event Area, we carry out public radio recording and hold live performances by musicians. At Umakamon Food Market and Furusato Bussakan Regional Product Center, you can enjoy regional delicacies and specialty goods from Saga!

Although events at the launch area and balloon flights take place at set times (weather permitting), there are events taking place all day at the Balloon Plaza and Rest Station.
When you've finished watching the competition flights, head over to Umakamon Food Market and treat yourself to some delicious local cuisine. After you've eaten your fill, enjoy live musical concerts at the Event Area. There's plenty of fun to be had at the Rest Station.

Q2. How much is the entrance fee?

Entrance into the Balloon Fiesta is free.

Guests who use the temporary parking lot on the northern side of the Kase Riverside must pay a 1000 yen charge to cover area maintenance costs.

Q3. How can I get to the balloon fiesta?

The fiesta grounds are located on the Kase Riverside. You can get there by:

- walking, bicycle
- automobile, motorcycle
- train (JR)
- bus, taxi

There will be parking available at the Kase Riverside and surrounding area specifically for guests driving to the balloon fiesta, but space is limited. During the weekend and holiday in particular, these parking lots will be full all day and the surrounding roads crowded. If you get caught in the traffic, you may even miss the balloons! There will be a temporary train station, JR Balloon Saga Station, at the main fiesta grounds on the Kase Riverside for the duration of the event, as well as shuttle buses running from the temporary parking lots outside of the fiesta grounds.

To avoid traffic, please use public transportation to get to the fiesta grounds quickly.

Q4. I'm coming from outside of Saga Prefecture. Is there lodging available?

Saga is located in a fairly rural region of Japan, but that does not mean that there are no accommodations for travelers. (Even here in the countryside we have hotels!)

There are a number of hotels, including business hotels, and ryokans (traditional Japanese-style inns) located around the center of downtown Saga City, near Saga Station. A little farther from the central hub of Saga City you can find accommodations in hot spring areas such as Furuyu Kumanokawa, Takeo, and Ureshino.

You can access the fiesta grounds most easily by staying at the hotels around Saga Station, from which you can simply ride a JR train to JR Balloon Saga Station, located within the fiesta grounds.

Please be aware that hotels with easy access to the fiesta grounds reach capacity very quickly during the balloon fiesta. Make your reservations well in advance!

Q5. What kind of balloons fly at the balloon fiesta?

Up to 100 balloons participate in the balloon fiesta. These balloons can be divided into 3 broad categories.

[Competition Balloons / About 80]
These balloons fly in the competitions that take place during the balloon fiesta, such as the Pacific Cup, the Masters Cup, and the Honda Grand Prix. Competitive flights are held twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

[Official Balloons / About 10]

These are the official balloons of the balloon fiesta, and do not compete in competitive events. In general, these balloons fly before the competitions begin.

[Fantasia Balloons / About 10]
These special shaped balloons are made in the form of animals, popular cartoon characters, and more. Although these balloons don't fly like the competitive balloons and official balloons, they are inflated in the morning after the morning competition ends (they are not inflated in the afternoon). If the weather is favorable, we will hold the Balloon Fantasia, where guests can enter the launch area and see these balloons up close!

Q6. Where can I see the balloons? (Where do the balloons take off?)

We recommend that you view the balloons flying in the balloon fiesta from the Launch Site, on the south side of the fiesta grounds.

The balloon flights (competitive flights) that take place at the fiesta can be roughly divided into two categories.

These balloons fly in the competitions that take place during the balloon fiesta, such as the Pacific Cup, the Masters Cup, and the Honda Grand Prix. Competitive flights are held twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

- Simultaneous liftoff from the fiesta grounds
The balloons take off from the Launch Site on the southern side of the fiesta grounds and fly towards a target placed a number of kilometers away from fiesta grounds.

- Fly in to the fiesta grounds from outside areas
The balloons lift off a number of kilometers away from the fiesta grounds and fly towards a target placed in the launch site on the southern side of the fiesta grounds.

In the case of simultaneous liftoff flights, as many as 80 balloons will take off all at once within 30 minutes of the competition start time.

Which kind of flight will occur on a given day is influenced by weather conditions, and will be decided at a briefing right before the competition (30 minutes prior).

Q7. Why didn't the balloons fly even though the weather was clear?

We're very grateful to hear that you were excited to see the balloons, and we apologize that you weren't able to see them fly. For the balloons to fly safely, there must be no rain, good visibility, and calm winds. There are cases where the wind will be too strong to fly even on clear days. Ensuring safety is our number one priority, and we ask for your understanding and cooperation.

On a typical year, the winds are usually calm during morning flights (competition flights), and the balloons can fly. The winds often pick up in the afternoon, and the balloons are often unable to fly.

DayTime2014201320122011201020092008
1 AM SL SL SL FIN SL SL SL
PM SL SL Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Rain)
Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Wind)
FIN
2 AM FIN SL SL SL FIN SL SL
PM SL FIN Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Wind)
FIN FIN FIN
3 AM SL SL SL SL FIN Canceled
(Rain)
Canceled
(Clouds)<
PM Canceled
(Rain)
SL Canceled
(Rain)
FIN Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Rain)
FIN
4 AM Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Rain)
SL Canceled
(Rain)
SL Canceled
(Wind)
FIN
PM Canceled
(Rain)
Canceled
(Rain)
Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Rain)
FIN Canceled
(Wind)
FIN
(NM) Held
(BV)
Canceled
(Rain)
Held
(BV)
Canceled
(Rain)
Held Held
(BV)
Held
5 AM SL Canceled
(Wind)
SL Canceled
(Rain)
SL FIN Canceled
(Clouds)
PM Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Wind)
Canceled
(Rain)
KEY KEY KEY KEY
(NM) Held Held Canceled
(Rain)
Held
(BV)
Held Held Held
SL = Simultaneous liftoff from fiesta grounds, FIN = Fly in to the fiesta grounds from outside areas, (NM) = Night Mooring, BV = burner version, KEY = Key Grab Race

(Information about competition flight status at past Saga International Balloon Fiestas)

Q5. What kind of balloons fly at the balloon fiesta?

Up to 100 balloons participate in the balloon fiesta. These balloons can be divided into 3 broad categories.

[Competition Balloons / About 80]
These balloons fly in the competitions that take place during the balloon fiesta, such as the Pacific Cup, the Masters Cup, and the Honda Grand Prix. Competitive flights are held twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

[Official Balloons / About 10]

These are the official balloons of the balloon fiesta, and do not compete in competitive events. In general, these balloons fly before the competitions begin.

[Fantasia Balloons / About 10]
These special shaped balloons are made in the form of animals, popular cartoon characters, and more. Although these balloons don't fly like the competitive balloons and official balloons, they are inflated in the morning after the morning competition ends (they are not inflated in the afternoon). If the weather is favorable, we will hold the Balloon Fantasia, where guests can enter the launch area and see these balloons up close!

Q8. Will the balloons fly tomorrow?

They may or they may not. If the weather forecast predicts a 100% chance of rain, they probably won't, but we can't say for certain.

Each year, this is the question that we receive most frequently, and unfortunately we can only offer a vague response. We will decide whether or not a flight will proceed as planned at the flight briefing, which is held on the same day as the flight right before its scheduled start.

At the briefing, the Competition Director and the competitors (pilots and crew) will deliberate on whether or not the competition will take place (i.e. whether the balloons will fly or not) and what "task," or type of competition, will be held based on information from the Competition Headquarters Weather Section.

These briefings are held right before each morning and afternoon competition (around 6:30 and 14:30), since the weather occasionally changes rapidly.

As soon as a decision has been reached, we will announce whether or not the balloons will fly at the fiesta grounds.

Q9. Can I ride in the hot air balloons??

We deeply apologize, but at this time we do not offer balloon rides for spectators at the balloon fiesta.

However, after the Saga International Balloon Fiesta ends we will be holding a separate event, the Saga Balloon Challenge Series, from late November to mid February on select Sunday mornings, at the same site on the Kase Riverside. Up to 30 balloons participate in each meeting of the Saga Balloon Challenge Series, and offer tethered balloon rides to visitors. (Rides are offered on a first-come, first serve basis on the day of the event ). We hope you'll enjoy these events!

Q10. Are there restrooms at the fiesta grounds?

About 200 portable toilets will be set up within each area in the fiesta grounds. There will also be toilets specifically for guests with disabilities.

However, the fiesta grounds become quite congested at the end of competition flights and events, particularly on the weekend and holiday, so we recommend that you plan ahead accordingly.

Q11. Is there anything that I should bring with me to the fiesta grounds?

Although there isn't anything in particular that you need to bring to the fiesta grounds, we have compiled a list of items that might be useful.

[Drinks]
Food and drinks can be purchased from vendors in different areas at the fiesta grounds (from Umakamon Food Market, for example), or from vending machines. Of course, feel free to bring your own food and beverages!

[Appropriate Clothing]
Since the fiesta grounds are located at the side of a river, there are areas that are not paved (for example, covered in gravel), embankments, and uneven ground. The grounds are also quite large. We recommend that you wear comfortable clothes that are easy to move around in.

During the season in which we hold the balloon fiesta, there are large temperature variations during the day. In some cases, you may find yourself needing a heavy jacket in the morning and evening and a short sleeved shirt in the afternoon. Therefore, we also recommend that you bring a jacket, particularly if you plan to attend the Night Mooring (La Montgolfier Nocturne).

The sun can also be very bright on clear days, so we encourage you to bring a hat and sunglasses (so you can look up at the sky) as well.

[Other Items]
If you plan to watch the competition from the embankments along the river, you can relax by bringing a picnic blanket, cushion, or small folding chair.

Q12. Can I come with infants or small children?

Of course! We welcome guests of all ages! If you plan to attend the fiesta with children, you may find the following information useful.

[Nursing Rooms]
There are four nursing rooms set up at the fiesta grounds.

[Baby Strollers]
The Balloon Information Center is located to your right as you exit the train at JR Balloon Saga Station. There you can rent a wheelchair or baby stroller for free, however we have a limited number available.
If you choose to use a baby stroller, please be aware that there are unpaved areas and uneven ground, since the fiesta grounds are located alongside a river.

[Lost Children]
Each year, many children get separated from their caregivers during the fiesta.
There is a Lost Child Center at the Rest Station, where we distribute identification wristbands for children to wear, and put out calls for lost children (in the lower grades of elementary school or younger). See the link below for steps you can take to keep your child from getting lost. Refer to: Guests with Children (Information on ID wristbands for children)

[Additional Information]
During the season in which we hold the balloon fiesta, there are large variations in temperature throughout the day. You may need a heavy jacket in the morning and evening and a short sleeved shirt in the afternoon. Don't forget to prepare for cold weather if you plan to stay at the fiesta all day!
Furthermore, the air can get dusty on clear days when there are a lot of visitors. Guests who are concerned about dust may wish to bring a face mask as a precaution.

Q13. Are there accommodations for guests with disabilities? (restrooms, parking space, etc.)

There are restrooms specifically for guests with disabilities in each area of the fiesta grounds. There is also accessible parking for guests with disabilities on the southern side of the fiesta grounds, which require a physical disability certificate or "heartful pass."

If you plan to use a wheelchair, please note that there are unpaved areas and uneven ground, since the fiesta grounds are located alongside a river.

Last Modified: 2016.10.04