The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

One of the most impressive festivals in Japan takes place in the northern city of Aomori in early August every year. At the Aomori Nebuta Festival, thousands of people gather to dance, drum and pull gigantic floats along the streets of the city.

  • The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Festival was first held back in the Edo era around 300 years ago. It has evolved into one of the highlights of the year in the Tohoku region, attracting more than three million visitors every year.

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The massive floats that are pulled through the streets at the parade, called Nebuta, are the signature aspect of this festival. These colorful floats are made from washi paper held together with wire and lit up with up to one thousand light bulbs. They often depict various characters from Japanese folklore or kabuki and can be as high as nine meters and weigh up to four tons. Watching them slowly move through the streets of Aomori is indeed a very spectacular sight.

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Nebuta are handmade by local creators, some of whom take several months off their regular jobs in order to focus on constructing the floats on behalf of the many teams that participate in the festival. Most of these groups are financed by major sponsors and some of the floats are more or less billboards for famous brands or products. As a countermeasure of the increasing commercialization of the festival, there are a few teams that rely solely on local donors and small businesses for financial support.

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    When the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri first started out, the floats were lit with real candles. However, they have since been replaced with electric lights after major fires broke out on several occasions which led to the government stepping in and banning the festival all together at one point. Luckily the festival was brought back and it has seen a major increase in popularity since the post war era rendering it one of the largest events of the year in Aomori City which has considerably improved the city’s image and tourism.

    The festival takes place over six days at the beginning of August. The first two days mainly consist of the children’s parades where smaller Nebuta are carried through the streets. As the event goes on the larger Nebuta can be seen paraded around for the last three or four days.

    The floats are judged by a jury throughout the festival and at the end of the last day the top three Nebuta are placed on ships and get to cruise along the bay, where a big fireworks show concludes the festival.

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

    During the daytime, most of the Nebuta are placed in large storehouses near the water. These are usually open and visitors are free to come and take a close look at the impressive structures and have a chat with the festival participants who are usually happy to answer any questions you might have.

    Anyone is welcome to join the parade and dance among the Nebuta floats. The only requirement is that you wear a traditional dancing costume called a haneto. These are available to buy or rent at plenty of shops in Aomori during the festival season.

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

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