Aomori Nebuta Festival

Jul 16th, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: Featured Articles, Festivals

In early August, Aomori Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan hosts the Nebuta & Neputa Festivals, where giant illuminated floats featuring famous warriors and and kabuki actors are paraded through the streets.

Aomori Nebuta Festival Japan

Accompanied but the thundering sound of beating drums, the music of bamboo flutes and shouts of “rasseera” by Haneto dancers this is more than just a parade.  It is a dramatic six night festival that is considered one of the best in Japan as evidenced by the three million people that visit annually.  The Aomori Nebuta Festival culminates on the final evening when a large toro, lantern, is floated out to sea, symbolically taking evil spirits with it, as large and colorful display of fireworks light up the night sky.

Aomori Nebuta Festival Drums Japan

Some historians believe that this event is a local variation of Tanabata celebrations, and others think it originated with a general who created large creatures to scare away rebels in the area sometime in the 800′s.

Japan in Motion offers a great video of the festival and says that “The Aomori Nebuta Festival is, unquestionably, one of the most visually dramatic, energetic, and well attended festivals in all Japan”.  More than thirty nebuta floats participate each year – each takes up to a year to construct and some tower five meters above the street and are spun about by their handlers as they move along the parade route.

Visitors are encourage to participate with area vendors renting Haneto costumes for around Y5,000 per person.

Hirosaki, also in Aomori prefecture, also hosts its won festival, the Neptuta Festival, where a much quieter, but no less impressive, version of the events in Aomori take place.

Hirosaki Neputa Festival Japan

The Aomori Nebuta Festival takes place from August 2nd through the 7th and the Hirosaki Neputa Festival starts a day earlier, on the first, and also ends on the 7th.

Visit the Japan Nation Tourist Organization website for Nebuta Festival access information for both sites.

Image Credit:  Flickr, Aomori Nebuta festival, Japan [2008], 2006-0802 (191) & Hirosaki Neputa festival, Japan [2008]

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  1. How beautiful, Shane. I visited Gion Matsuri last year and just fell in love with all of the sights and colors. In the two years I lived in Japan I only made it to one matsuri and have always regretted it. These photos of yours make me regret it even more.

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