Nebuta Festival Nebuta Festival

Nebuta Festival


2017.08.04

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Nebuta Festival

A long time ago in what is now Aomori Prefecture, when people wanted to sleep, even while working, they would say “nebutai” in the Tsugaru dialect instead of saying “nemutai” (meaning I want to sleep) which is common in other parts of Japan. This evolved to “nebute” and eventually resulted in nebuta, the name of Aomori’s favourite summer festival.

  • Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest festival in Aomori, and one celebrated around the whole prefecture. The origins of the Nebuta Festival are unclear but it is said that this fire festival resulted from a blend between Chinese and Tsugaru culture. The festival’s most popular version amongst tourists is the Aomori City Nebuta Festival. It is held from August 2nd to the 7th when all floats are brought out at night (except on the 7th when they are brought out during the day) lighting up the city streets.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Although the parades are held in August, for many locals the actual “festival” begins two months prior as various groups set up their “Nebuta Koya” or warehouses next to the ASPAM building and start building these huge three-dimensional nebuta floats. Most of these groups are sponsored by large nationwide corporations, but there are some smaller ones such as the Nebuta Aikoukai, which raise funds by selling nebuta memorabilia like towels and t-shirts.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Aikoukai’s main craftsman and designer, Makoto-san, builds these magical floats from scratch every year, which lead over 200 people who join together during the parade; these floats are inspired by Chinese and Japanese folk stories and sometimes also manga. The nebuta of Aomori City in particular are built with hard wire, paper, wood, and lots of glue.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    To light them up a makeshift yet carefully thought out wiring structure is set in place to avoid any shadows showing from inside the floats during the parade. For the serious nebuta fans, Nebuta Aikoukai koya is open from May for the public to get a close look at the float-making process. During the festival days, this and all other koya are open during the day, and visiting the floats before seeing them on the streets is part of the festivities.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Come August 2nd, the nebuta craze takes over the city and everything revolves around the festival. Locals and visitors alike dress up in “haneto” yukatas which can be purchased in various shops around town for about 12,000 yen or rented for 3,000 yen on the main street. People wearing the haneto yukatas can join the parade’s dancing area and partake in the traditional dancing as a part of the the nebuta float procession. The only prerequisite for joining the dancing on the street is to be dressed up in the traditional yukata, and to be able to withstand the heat and humidity of Aomori’s summer.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Once everyone is ready, the nebuta are pushed around town at night along a 3km course. When these outstanding floats reach an intersection they are spun around at the request of the cheering crowds. The intensity builds up at every corner with the beat of the drums, the sound of the flutes, and the traditional chants. On the night of August 7th, the Nebuta Festival rounds up as the nebuta are placed on boats and exhibited around the Aomori Bay, with the sky lit up by fireworks.

    Nebuta Festival

    Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebutasai
    place
    Aomori Pref. Aomorishi Hashimoto 2-chome
    phone
    0177237211
    View Allarrow

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