A day at the Saga International Balloon Festival
Morning Competition vs. Afternoon Competition?
Outside of the Festival Venue
Cationary Points

The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is held annually in early November. Over 100 hot air balloons from all over the world gather in Saga prefecture for this event. While observing the many hot air balloons in the sky, you can also taste Saga prefecture’s local delicacies, like Saga beef and Saga seaweed. Here is all you need to know to enjoy Saga International Balloon Fiesta to the fullest.

What is the Saga International Balloon Fiesta?


Hot air balloons floating right by the audience

The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is an international hot balloon competition held every November on the outskirts of Saga city. The festival is held by the Kase River.

The festival began in 1978, and was originally a small hot air balloon competition called “Balloon Fiesta in Kyushu”. In 1980, the venue was changed to the current Saga location. Today, the festival is a popular event for tourists, bringing in about a million visitors every year.

About Hot Air Balloon Competitions

In a typical hot air balloon competition, the pilots compete to see how accurately they can maneuver their balloons to the target. The balloons can only go up and down and cannot maneuveur sideways, so it is up to the pilots to control the burners to allow the winds to carry them where they wish.

Each event in ballooning is referred to as tasks. There are about 20 tasks, and most of them are to compete in accuracy, distance and speed. What tasks are to be performed vary on factors such as the day’s weather and the host of the competition.

Saga International Balloon Fiesta 2018

The Saga International Balloon Fiesta 2018 will be held from October 31 to November 4. As it is every year, the festival will be held by Kase River in Saga prefecture. 115 hot air balloons are set to participate.

JR Balloon Saga Station


JR Balloon Saga Station

For the duration of the festival, the JR Balloon Saga station is set up by the venue. It locates between Nabeshima station and Kubota Station on the JR Nagasaki Main Line.

This station is the most convenient for reaching the festival venue. Limited express trains also stop here for the week of the festival.

A day at the Saga International Balloon Festival

7:00a.m.: Balloon competition begins


The festival preparing before sunrise

At the Saga International Balloon Fiesta, there are two competitions held per day. The first begins at 7:00a.m.

Make sure to catch the competition right when it begins. The balloons all depart at once at the referee’s signaling.


The balloons departing at once

The balloons flying in the fresh, morning sky is an amazing sight. Waking up for it might be a bit of a struggle, but you will not regret it.


Balloons performing tasks

After ascending, the balloons being their tasks. You can witness the balloons trying to drop their “markers” on the designated targets.

After the morning competition: Balloon Fantasia" alt="Saga-Balloon-Characters" />

Balloons with pictures of anime characters and animals

After the morning competition, the Balloon Fantasia event will begin. During the Balloon Fantasia Event, hot air balloons with anime character and animal designs will be flown.

During this time, you can enter the task area, and see the balloons up close.

Lunch: Saga Cuisine at the Umakamon Market

The Umakamon Market is open daily during the Saga International Balloon Fiesta. Here, you can enjoy local foods from Saga prefecture.

Some of the dishes include Saga beef and Saga seaweed. Some of the fresh produce and seafood are available to take home as souvenirs.

1:00p.m.: Hot Air Balloon Class

Hot air balloon classes are held daily during the festival. At the classes, you can experience setting up and putting away a hot air balloon. With pilots and crewmembers by your side, you can learn about the structure and science behind the hot air balloons. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to go on the hot air balloons.

6:30p.m.: "La Montgolfier Nocturne" Mooring the Balloons


Mooring the balloons

Make sure to stay at the venue until the evening hours! On the weekend of the festival, you can witness the mooring of the balloons.

The mooring event is called "La Montgolfier Nocturne". The balloons are aligned by the river, and are lit up in sync with the orchestra playing behind them. At the end of the show, the burners are all lit up at once and fireworks are shot into the night sky.

The event will be held on November 3 and 4.


The “burner version” of the mooring event

If the winds are too strong and the balloons cannot be blown up, the event is held just with the burners.

Morning Competition vs. Afternoon Competition?


A hot air balloon in the morning sky

Out of the two competitions, one starting at 7:00a.m. and the other at 3:00p.m., the morning competition has a higher successful flight rate. Also in the morning events, you can see the beautiful sight of the balloons flying with the sunrise in the back.

For a successful flight, the winds need to be calm. If the winds do get even a bit gusty, the events may get cancelled. The winds in the morning hours tend to be calmer than in the afternoon, so viewing the morning competition is recommended.

You can check out the festival’s official Twitter and Facebook pages for updates on the events during the festival.

Hot Air Balloons from Across the River


Balloons reflecting in the Kase River

If you want an amazing photo of the balloons, then go to the other side of the Kase River and take a picture from there. With the sun rising behind the balloons, you can see the bright red sunrise shining through the balloon.

Outside of the Festival Venue

The city center is not too far from the venue, and there is much to explore there. The shuttle from the city center to the Saga International Balloon Fiesta venue is only ¥100, so feel free to utilize that to go to the city and back.

Saga Balloon Museum


Saga Balloon Museum

The Saga Balloon Museum opened in 2016, and is Japan’s first museum dedicated to hot air balloons. In the museum, there are videos of the Saga International Balloon Museum throughout the years, balloon flight simulators and more.

Higata Yoka Park’s Shichimenso Field


Shichimenso Field

The Higata Yoka Park locates on coast of the Ariake Sea. At the park are vast tidelands and play equipment.

During the autumn months (during the festival!) the park’s shichimenso field has changed colors to a beautiful fall red. During the shichimenso festival, the field is lit up in the evening hours.

Cationary Points


In order for the balloons to have a successful flight, the weather must be sunny and relatively calm. The festival could be cancelled in the case of rain and strong winds.

If the coordinators and competitors agree that the weather is not suitable for ballooning, the event could be cancelled.

Riding the balloons?

Besides the competitors themselves, nobody else is allowed to ride on the balloons. The closest you can get to the balloons is during the Balloon Fantasia.


Nearest station: JR Balloon Saga Station (JRバルーン佐賀駅)

From Saga Station

【Saga Sta.】JR Nagasaki Line / for Nagasaki
→【Balloon Saga Sta.】

From Hakata Station

【Hakata Sta.】JR Limited Express Kamome・Midori / for Sasebo
→【Balloon Saga Sta.】

From Saga Airport

【Saga Airport Sta.】Airport Bus / for Saga Sta.
→【Saga Sta.】JR Nagasaki Line / for Nagasaki
→【Balloon Saga Sta.】

A Day of Fun at the Saga International Balloon Fiesta!

The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is not just balloon competitions. Other events such as concerts, talk shows and motorcycle shows are held during the duration of the festival.


Kisegawa-kasenshiki, Kise-machi, Saga-shi, Saga

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