The Akita Kanto Matsuri The Akita Kanto Matsuri

The Akita Kanto Matsuri


2017.09.15

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Akita Kanto Matsuri

The Akita Kanto Matsuri, held over four days in early August every year, is one of the most spectacular summer festivals in northern Japan thanks to its towering paper lantern displays and its lively festival vibes.

  • The concept of the Akita Kanto Matsuri is simple enough – giant bamboo poles decorated with dozens of candle-lit paper lanterns are carried by performers in front of more than one million spectators who come from far and wide for the nighttime parade.

    The festival is related to the Tanabata celebration which is an important event in Japanese mythology as a time when the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, meet in the Milky Way. Tanabata is traditionally an event when the Japanese pray for a good rice harvest later in the autumn and the same goes for the Akita Kanto Matsuri.

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The main event of the festival is the parade which is held on Chuo-dori street, one of the major streets in Akita City. The main performance takes place from 7:25 pm to 9 pm every evening during the four days of the festival. During the 90 minutes, dozens of local teams compete over who can provide the most entertaining balancing act of the gigantic lantern poles.

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Weighing up to 50 kilos each, carrying the poles is one thing but the performers go that step further attempting to balance them in the palm of their hand, on their foreheads, or even on their hip or chin. Sometimes you will even see performers using their free hands to do other tasks at the same time, such as unfolding umbrellas or swinging paper fans through the air. This truly impressive show is all cheered on by an ensemble of taiko drummers who march behind them.

    The area where the performance takes place is approximately one kilometer in length. There are plenty of paid seats in the middle of the stretch that you can splurge on to guarantee yourself an unobstructed view of the spectacle. Reserved seats will set you back around 2,600 yen each for one night.

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    While sitting down and watching the performance is most certainly the most comfortable option, you can get the real spirit of the festival by making your way around the area by foot. As well as giving you a better chance of seeing all of the teams’ performances, you can also grab some drinks and street food at the many food stalls. As the performances are quite static, staying in one place for the whole event means you could miss out on the different teams and seeing how their performances differ.

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Compared to many other Japanese festivals where order and synchronization is often a big part of the visual impression, the Kanto Matsuri is comparatively one of chaos and disorganization. With the performances far from perfectly coordinated, don’t be surprised if you see poles repeatedly dropped. Sometimes even falling uncomfortably close to the spectators, the clumsy factor adds to the charm with every team exercising their freedom to balance the poles and entertain the viewers in any way they want. While it’s loud and chaotic, it is also a lot of fun, which is reflected in the big smiles of both the performers’ and the spectators’ faces.

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The Akita Kanto Matsuri

    To summarize, the Akita Kanto Matsuri provides a unique experience that is quite different from most other Japanese festivals. This is a festival worth going out of your way for if you get the chance.

    Akitakantoumaturi
    place
    Akita Pref. Akitashi Omachi 3-chome
    phone
    0188632222

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