The options range from the energetic frenzy of the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, scorching the short northern summer nights with color, to the Tanabata Festival of Sendai, which will cool you down. The spectacularly colored floats and shouting dancers make the Japanese summer festival a unique experience, and we have lots of information to help you experience it first-hand.
For travel to the summer festivals in the Tohoku area, we invite you to travel on the JR East Shinkansen and limited express trains.
Hirosaki Neputa Festival – Aomori Prefecture
The Hirosaki Neputa Festival is designated as an important intangible folk culture asset of Japan. In the festival, about 80 floats, featuring images of glorious heroes and warriors from works of classical Chinese literature like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin, march through the streets of this castle town shouting “Yaa ya do!”
In January 1980, the festival was designated as an important intangible folk culture asset, and today, novel ideas are incorporated such as neputa for children and advance lanterns. The heroic themes of the kagamie, or framed pictures, at the front of the floats, contrast with the simple elegance of the ogi-neputa or fan-shaped back-facing theme and the traditional kumi-neputa with their magnificent three-dimensional constructions. As the floats are carried through the town, musicians provide a unique air to the festivities with their flute and drum accompaniment.
Aomori Nebuta Festival – Aomori Prefecture
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is counted as one of the three great Tohoku festivals, and it attracts some three million people from around Japan and other nations each year. In 1980, the Aomori Nebuta Festival was designated by Japan as an important intangible folk culture asset. The nebuta is a magnificent float made by attaching Japanese washi paper to a wire frame. Dancers called haneto weave among the nebuta, dancing and yelling out their trademark “Rassera!” call in a loud voice. There are a number of shops where the proper attire for a haneto dancer can be obtained, so visitors can also dress up and take part in the dancing.
During the parade, a series of gigantic nebuta, some as large as 9 meters wide, 5 meters tall and 7 meters deep, pass through the town, one after the other. The internally illuminated nebuta seem to float in the air through the dark night like something from another world.
Goshogawara Tachi Neputa – Aomori Prefecture
The neputa of Goshogawara Tachi neputa are about the same as those in the Aomori or Hirosaki festival, but they are much taller. Called tachi neputa, these gigantic floats rise to some 22 meters high and can weigh up to 17 tons. As the parade winds through the streets of Goshogawara City, everyone cheers “Yatte-mare, yatte-mare!”
When power lines and utility poles were put up around Goshogawara Station, the tachi neputa would get caught every year, causing power outages, so the lines were buried underground.
Morioka Sansa Odori – Iwate Prefecture
The best thing about the Morioka sansa odori or dance is the synchronous Japanese drum (taiko) performances, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest drum parade in the world.
On the final day of the festival, all of the participating drum groups form the greatest drum parade in the world with nothing but drums, and mark the end of the festivities with circle dancing, open to participants and spectators alike. This is a great opportunity to create a memorable trip.
Please note that events are subject to change.
Akita Kanto Festival – Akita Prefecture
One of the three great Tohoku festivals and the largest in Akita Prefecture, the Akita Kanto Festival brings together wishes for a bountiful harvest and the neburi nagashi rite, passed on from the days of yore, for purification and protection from evil spirits. To the cheering of “Dokkoisho!” performers carry out feats of strength and skill while balancing lantern poles weighing 50 kilograms on the palms of their hands, their forehead, shoulders, waist and more.
Akita Prefecture is known for growing the best rice in the Tohoku area, and the lantern poles that hang heavily with a total of 250 or more lanterns made to resemble bales of rice lined up along Kanto Odori is a scene that conjures up the image of the sun hitting rice plants bent over with the weight of ears of ripe rice.
One of the best events is the daytime feats of skill “Myogi-kai”, where performers compete in six-meter rings.
Yamagata Hanagasa Festival – Yamagata Prefecture
The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is sometimes added to the three great Tohoku festivals, making the “four great Tohoku festivals.” The word hanagasa refers to conical hats decorated with flowers, and in Yamagata, the prefectural flower, the safflower, is used. Holding their flowery hats in their hands, some ten thousand dancers yell out “Yassho, makasho” in rhythm to the Hanagasa Ondo folk song. Dressed in colorful costumes, the dancers parade through Yamagata in magnificent style, nearly buried by the crowd of spectators along the route trying to get a glimpse of the procession.
Sendai Tanabata Festival – Miyagi Prefecture
Tanabata is counted as one of the most important seasonal festivals of the year.
The Tanabata customs continue to this day: On the evening of July 7 each year, people hang colorful strips of paper and decorations on which their wishes are written, to send their prayers to the stars. The Tanabata festival of Sendai is truly one of the best celebrations in Japan. One of the three great Tohoku festivals, the Sendai Tanabata Festival attracts more than two million visitors from around Japan each year. And the magnificent decorations are not the only special feature. For four centuries, these fine traditions of have been maintained, even in modern times, including the hanging of the traditional seven Sendai decorations from bamboo decorations and Tanabata decorations hand-made from genuine Japanese washi paper.
Soma Nomaoi – Fukushima Prefecture
Soma Nomaoi, which boasts more than a thousand years of history, is a traditional horse event designated as a national important intangible folk culture asset. Five hundred samurai knights attired in armor passed down from their ancestors take part in this spectacle that spreads out like one of the many scrolls depicting battles of old.
The largest horse event in the world, Soma Nomaoi, is filled with throngs of visitors.
For more information on Summer Festivals in Japan or for any assistance with your travel needs to, from or in Japan contact us for assistance by clicking on the eGlobal Travel Media Personal Concierge-Japan banner at the top of the Destination Japan page.
Article from http://www.jreast.co.jp
Edited by : Arlynne Hurley