Add Flair to Summer in Tohoku! Top 7 Summer Festivals with Abundant Local Colors
Summer in the Tohoku region is filled with many large-scale matsuri (festival). Here are the best festivals that represent the six prefectures in Tohoku, from festivals that are famous all throughout Japan, up to an event that holds a world record.
1. Aomori Nebuta Festival
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is a grand festival that is attended by more than 3 million people each year.
The parade of over 20 gigantic lantern floats called “nebuta” really packs a punch! The nebuta floats are surrounded by dancers called “haneto” who dance around the floats while chanting to further uplift the mood of the festival. Anybody can join in the dancing and be a haneto, as long as they wear the proper costume. There are shops where you can rent and change into the required costume, so why not try and be a dancer in the parade? On the last night of the festival, do not miss the parade of the floats across the water and the fireworks display at Aomori port.
Event date: Usually takes place on August 2-7
2. Sendai Tanabata Festival
The Sendai Tanabata Festival in Miyagi Prefecture is extremely famous as it is considered the best Tanabata festival※ in all of Japan.
Must-see sights during this festival are the opulent and gorgeous “sasa-kazari” (bamboo decorations) that adorn the center of town. This event draws about 2 million guests who wish to catch a glimpse of the festive spectacle created by the vast amounts of brightly colored Japanese paper. At the specially designated festival space, various events are held day and night. Enjoy the charms of this festival from different angles, such as tradition, history and food.
Event date: Usually takes place on August 6-8
※This is an annual event that is held all over Japan. While it is generally held on July 7th, in Sendai, Tanabata Festival takes place according to Japan’s old lunisolar calendar.
3. Akita Kanto Festival
The Akita Kanto Festival is held to pray for a good harvest, as well as to seek purification and drive away evil.
The highlight of this festival is the “kanto engi” that is held every night. Kanto is the lantern that is placed at the top of a bamboo pole, and it is 12m high and weighs as much as 50kg! The performers carry the bamboo poles on their palms, forehead, shoulders and other parts of the body, displaying their splendid skill in balancing the poles. There are even people who support their poles with their mouths and jaws! After the final performance with the bamboo poles, the spectators are treated to different interactive events that will let them try carrying the kanto poles, take photos and so on.
Event date: Usually takes place on August 3-6
4. Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival paints the midsummer nights of Yamagata. This festival draws a crowd of more than 1 million people during its run.
During this festival, around 13,000 dancers in 150 groups parade through town while holding bamboo hats adorned with safflowers, to the accompaniment of loud chants and Hanagasa Taiko drums. Take note of the beautiful costumes of each group of dancers. If you are not satisfied with just watching the event, then you might find it fun to try dancing while learning from the dancers at the Walk-In Corner found at the tail of the parade!
Event date: Usually takes place on August 5-7
5. Morioka Sansa Odori
Morioka Sansa Odori of Iwate is a festival that has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as a “world record holder for the largest Japanese taiko drum performance”.
The parade that takes place every day during the festival features an endless stream of Miss Sansa Odori/Sansa Taikoren (Miss Sansa dancers and Sansa taiko drums) engaged in a grand performance, and groups performing the Dento Sansa Odori (traditional Sansa dance) that is handed down to Morioka City and the surrounding cities and towns. The “World’s Largest Taiko Drum Parade” on the last day of the festival is a program that recreates the time the festival challenged the Guinness World Record. The booming sound of 10,000 taiko drums will reverberate to your soul.
Event date: Usually takes place on August 1-4
6. Fukushima Waraji Matsuri
The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri is an event that originated from the Akatsuki Mairi (a festival dedicating a giant waraji (a traditional Japanese straw sandal, to the deity)), a traditional event that is held every February.
There is no set program for the festival, but in 2016, the event mainly involved a parade of people carrying Japan’s biggest waraji that measured 12m in length and 2t in weight. Aside from the parade, there were other events to liven up the festival, including the Waraji Odori where dancers performed a festive dance inside a set course to the tune of reggae-like waraji dance song, the Dancing Soda Night where people danced to hip-hop songs, and the Waraji Kyoso where teams competed in a race while carrying a waraji that is up to 5m in size.
Event date for 2017: August 4,5
※This is the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri that was held at the Tohoku Rokkonsai (festival of the six souls in Tohoku)
7. Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri
To be held for the first time in 2017, the Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri is a new festival that will showcase the six festivals featured above. This festival will revolve around the theme of the bonds of Tohoku and the world that were nurtured on the road to the region’s recovery from the devastating earthquake. The venue of the festival will change every year, with the festival to be held in Sendai City in Miyagi in 2017.
Further, the Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri will be born as the successor of the Tohoku Rokkonsai. The Tohoku Rokkonsai was first held in Miyagi Prefecture in July of the year when the region was struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Thereafter, it was held in Iwate, Fukushima, Yamagata, Akita and Aomori prefectures, with about 1.5 million people in attendance.
※Photo shows the Tohoku Rokkonsai event
What do you think? Please enjoy summer in Japan through the many grand festivals during the season!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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