The Hirosaki Neputa Festival


2017.09.14

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Hirosaki Neputa Festival is another eye-catching summer festival in northern Japan. Over one week in August, the streets of Hirosaki are filled with colorful floats and the sounds of beating drums and flute ensemble.

  • The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Neputa Festival in Hirosaki is something of a sister festival to the Aomori Nebuta Festival, and to the untrained eye, they share the same basic principle – huge handmade floats depicting mythical characters are pulled through the street, accompanied by a great number of dancers, drummers and flute players.

    Despite the festivals’ similarities, the floats themselves are quite different in the two cities. The Neputa in Hirosaki are usually fan-shaped and the emphasis lies on their intricate paintings as the factor that sets the different floats apart. The Aomori Nebuta’s floats, on the other hand, are three dimensional sculptures which are more intricate in their construction.

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    While the Aomori Nebuta Festival feels like a major event (and it is!), the festival in Hirosaki has a vibe more akin to a smaller local festival – Here, you shouldn’t expect to find much information in English, and the festival is also not as accommodating to outsiders joining the parade as it mainly consists of local groups and teams that have spent time practising together.

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    It’s still an impressive show, however. One thing that is sure to leave a lasting impression is the taiko drums, called Tsugaru Joppari Taiko. These can reach diameters up to 3.3 meters and are some of the largest drums you’ll most likely come across in Japan. The booming sound of these larger than life drums together with the accompanying flutes has been recognized as one of Japan’s 100 soundscapes, which is a list of some of the most unique sounds collected by the Ministry of the Environment in the 1990s.

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival, just like most of the other major festivals of Tohoku, is believed to have its roots in a tradition called Neburi-Nagashi, which roughly translates to “washing away sleepiness”. The lively festival is supposedly a means of helping people get over the drowsiness that usually comes with the hot and humid summers in Japan. Legend has it that the festival was first established in the early days of the Heian period, which could make it over a century old but it is more likely that the festival was started up in the Edo period.

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Regardless of its age, we can attest that this festival most certainly lives up to its purpose of invigorating people suffering from summer fatigue – It’s hard to feel sleepy while watching this impressive parade of beautiful floats accompanied by drumming that shakes you to the bone. Thanks to this along with the cheery spirit of both the participants and spectators the Hirosaki Neputa Festival is a must-see for anyone who finds themselves in Tohoku during the beginning of August.

    Hirosaki
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    Aomori Pref
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