An Impressive Summer Festival! A Complete Guide to Aomori Nebuta Festival
Aomori Nebuta Festival is a popular festival visited by 3 million people a year. The calls of the dancers and the lights of the huge lanterns come together to create one of Japan's foremost festivals. Here are some of the festival's charms and must-see sights!
What is the Aomori Nebuta Festival?
Aomori Nebuta Festival is a huge festival with more than 3 million participants yearly. It's held every August 2-7 in the center of the city of Aomori. It was registered as a national intangible cultural property in 1980.
During the festival period, about 20 huge lanterns called "nebuta" are paraded around. There's a 3.1km course created through the center of the city, and the lanterns are carried around that course every day. There are nebuta festivals in other areas as well, but this festival is known for the large performance by dancers called "haneto." The dancers chant powerfully, and dance energetically around the nebuta. By the way, as long as the haneto are wearing the standard costume, anyone can join in. There are shops around the area renting the right costume.
History and Highlights
One of the legends is that the nebuta festival was originally a Tanabata festival, during which people purify themselves of their sins. The Tanabata festival mixed with Aomori's ancient tradition of sending off the spirits of the dead. The paper, bamboo, and candles used in either of the traditions became lanterns, and it's believed that it evolved from that into today's format.
The nebuta take about 3 months to make, and all of them are impressive to look at. They are made with historical motifs, with wire coloring washi paper, and look energetic.
The highlight of the festival is the night parade held on August 2 - 6. The 5th, when the huge nebuta are in motion, and the 6th when you can see award-winning pieces are especially recommended.
Enjoy the Eve of the Festival
There is also a festival on the eve of the nebuta festival on August 1. It's held at Nebuta Rasse Land, which is open from the end of May to August 7 in Aoiumi Park. It's a space where huts are built for the purpose of creating nebuta. All of the nebuta are lit in preparation for the big event. There are events like traditional music performances as well as an endurance contest for traditional musicians. Stalls offering street food and games are set up too so you can fully enjoy the festival mood.
Check Out the Nebuta
The nebuta are paraded around every day, but depending on the day, the number and order changes. On August 2 and 3, there are about 15 nebuta called "kodomo nebuta" made by local groups and children, as well as 15 huge nebuta made by craftsmen. From August 4 - 7, there are about 20 huge nebuta paraded around. From August 2 - 6, the parade is only at night, but it's during the day on the 7th.
On August 6, they announce the winners of the nebuta awards, based on various factors such as expression, design, color, the energy of the haneto dancers, the voices of the haneto dancers, and more. The winning nebuta parade around, and the festival reaches peak excitement.
Nebuta Sea Parade and the Aomori Fireworks Show
The last night, August 7, closes the festival with two big events.
The venue moves to Aomori Port, and the award-winning nebuta (planned to be 6) are paraded on the sea, and there's also a fireworks show. The sight of the nebuta on the water with the huge fireworks lighting the night sky create a magical finale.
The Trick to Seeing the Festival Best
Here are some recommended spots to see the nebuta parade. In order to get the most impressive sight, you should head for the intersection heading towards Yanagimachi-dori from National Highway 4. It's a very popular spot, so you should try to get your space early. They start restricting traffic before 6:00 pm, so that's when people go to get their spots. For people who want to enjoy it leisurely, avoid the intersection and find a spot straight down the road.
For people who really want to enjoy the festival as deeply as possible, you should check out the Nebuta House Wa Rasse near JR Aomori Station. You can see huge nebuta that participated in past festivals there.
*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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