Tohoku's Festivals in One Week

How to Experience Seven of Tohoku's Festivals in One Week


2019.06.27

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Tohoku's Festivals in One Week

Summer is a time of celebration in Japan, with matsuri (festivals) taking place across the country. But the Tohoku region in the northern part of Honshu is particularly famed for its festivals, most of which take place during the first week of August.

The six prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Yamagata are the center of all the action and within an easy commute of one another. So if you’re after one long party, it’s possible to experience as many as seven festivals in a single week!

We’ve created a logical plan of how to access seven famous Tohoku festivals in just seven days, which can easily be achieved with the help of your Japan Rail Pass ( http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html). In addition, we’ll also share with you what makes each so special, so you know what to expect and can be prepared!

  • 01

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Event dates: August 2-4 2019

    Visit date: August 2 2019

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Begin your week of festivities in Fukushima to experience the weird and wonderful Waraji Matsuri, which celebrates traditional waraji straw sandals.
    It’s been taking place since the 1970s, with waraji considered a symbol of safe travels. A highlight of the matsuri is watching a 12-meter-long waraji being paraded down the street en route to the Haguro Shrine on Mount Shinobu. This is followed by a night of dancing, including the traditional Waraji Dance and modern hip-hop routines which are performed by competing teams!

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    The first day will also feature a series of waraji races, with teams from local schools and companies competing against one another to see who can carry an oversized straw sandal the fastest. If you’re an onlooker, you’re expected to not only cheer them on but also drench the competitors in water. Along the course, you’ll find large buckets and scoops to assist in your water-throwing pursuits.

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Accompanying the celebrations are plenty of street food stalls where you can feast on meat skewers and fried soba noodles, as well as try a variety of different sakes from the Fukushima region.

    To reach Fukushima Station from Tokyo, you can ride the Tohoku Shinkansen (1 hour and 30 minutes) from Tokyo Station.

    Read more
    The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri
    A Straw Sandal Festival? Yes, it is pretty much as weird as it sounds.…


    Things to Do at the Fukushima Waraji Festival
    The Fukushima Waraji Festival might be small compared to most of the other major festivals in Tohoku, but it still has plenty of fun to offer.…


    Official Website : Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

    Fukushima Warajimaturi
    place
    Fukushima Pref. Fukushimashi Sakaemachi
    phone
    0245365511
  • 02

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Event dates: August 1-4 2019

    Visit date: August 3 2019

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    If you want to tick a Guinness Book of World Records-holding festival off your list, then make a bee-line to Morioka to experience its Sansa Odori Festival. It’s the largest taiko drum festival in the world, with more than 10,000 taiko drummers and dancers parading through the streets. It’s believed to have originated when a wicked demon was punished by the god of Mitsuishi Shrine, with the locals responding by rejoicing in the streets.

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Today, countless teams of drummers and dancers wearing traditional Japanese clothing take to the streets, some pulling colorful floats alongside. The dance performed here is the Sansa, which has its origins in Iwate Prefecture, although it’s been somewhat simplified so it can be replicated on such a large festival scale. Young children and elderly residents can be seen dancing alongside one another, which is just one element that makes this festival so special. Aside from the nightly parades, you can see daytime performances in the big square beside Morioka Station and sample local specialties at the street-side stalls.

    To reach Morioka Station from Fukushima Station, simply jump aboard the Tohoku Shinkansen for the 1 hour and 30-minute journey.

    Read more
    The Morioka Sansa Festival
    If you are into dancing and drumming, you’d better add the Morioka Sansa Festival to your itinerary.…


    How to Participate in the Morioka Sansa Festival
    Japanese festivals are always a blast, especially in smaller cities where the wide-ranging activities more often than not have a positive effect on the atmosphere of the whole town.…


    Official Website : Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

    Morioka Sansaodori
    place
    Iwate Pref. Moriokashi Uchimaru
    phone
    0196218800
  • 03

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Event dates: August 2-7 Every year

    Visit date: August 4 2019

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    From Morioka, make the short train ride to Aomori to experience what is one of the largest festivals in the Tohoku region (it attracts more than three million visitors every year). Magnificent floats made from washi paper and illuminated by light bulbs are pulled through the streets, accompanied by dancers and drummers. It’s been held in the city for around 300 years and is an undeniably spectacular sight. Many of the floats depict characters from Japanese mythology and they can weigh as much as four tons!

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    The first couple of days are marked by children’s parades featuring smaller nebuta, with the larger floats being showcased over the following days. At the end of the festival, the floats judged as the best are placed on ships and paraded along the bay while a fireworks display colors the sky above. If you want to get an up-close look at the floats, you can head to one of the waterfront warehouses where they’re stored during the day.

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    From Morioka Station, you can ride the Tohoku Shinkansen as far as Shin-Aomori Station (about 1 hour), then change to the JR Ou Line for the 6-minute train ride from Shin-Aomori to Aomori Station.

    Read more
    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.…


    How to Join the Aomori Nebuta Festival
    The Nebuta Festival in Aomori is one of the biggest festivals in all of Tohoku, attracting a crowd of over 3 million people every year.…


    Official Website : Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebutasai
    place
    Aomori Pref. Aomorishi Hashimoto 2-chome
    phone
    0177237211
  • 04

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Event dates: August 1-7 Every year

    Visit date: August 5 2019

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    After experiencing the light and color of the Aomori Nebuta Festival, head to its sister festival in Hirosaki, an old castle town that ignites during the first week in August. Colorful floats depicting mythical characters are pulled through the streets, accompanied by the sound of beating drums, flute players and a huge number of dancers.

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    One of the major differences between the two festivals is that the floats in Hirosaki are usually fan-shaped, with intricate paintings decorating them. It also features taiko drums that can reach up to 3.3 meters in diameter, with a booming sound that can be felt right through the body. In fact, they’ve been recognized as one of Japan’s 100 soundscapes while the festival itself has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.

    It’s believed that the festival originated from a tradition known as Neburi-Nagashi, which translates as “washing away sleepiness” and was designed to eliminate drowsiness and fatigue during the hot Japanese summer. After hearing the profound beat of the taiko drums, you’re sure to be wide awake!

    From Aomori Station, it’s a short 35-45-minute ride on the JR Ou Line to Hirosaki Station to begin the festivities.

    Read more
    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival
    The Hirosaki Neputa Festival is another eye-catching summer festival in northern Japan.…


    Official Website : Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

  • 05

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Event dates: August 3-6 2019

    Visit date: August 6 2019

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    From Hirosaki, continue to Akita to experience its famous pole lantern festival. Begin the day in Agora Plaza where teams gather to practice their pole-balancing skills or you can try balancing a pole yourself. You can also watch solo and group performances throughout the day in Area Nakaichi, beside the Akita Museum of Art, or gain an insight into the history of the festival at the Akita City Folklore and Performing Arts Heritage Center.

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    The highlight of the matsuri is the nightly parade along Chuo Road where kanto poles measuring up to 12 meters in length and decorated with illuminated paper lanterns are skillfully balanced. Musicians playing taiko drums and traditional flutes accompany the parade, with the opportunity for onlookers to chat with the performers and test their kanto-hoisting skills at the end.

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akita Kanto Matsuri

    To get to Akita from Hirosaki, you can ride an Express train on the JR Ou Line (2 hours and 10 minutes) if you want the fastest route. Alternatively, you can opt for the scenic Resort Shirakami train (4 hours and 30 minutes), which hugs the spectacular coastline of northwest Honshu.

    Read more
    The Akita Kanto Matsuri
    The Akita Kanto Matsuri, held over four days in early August every year,…


    How to Enjoy the Akita Kanto Matsuri
    The pole lantern festival in Akita is a spectacular event and one of the biggest summer festivals in northern Japan.…


    Official Website : Akita Kanto Matsuri

    Akitakantoumaturi
    place
    Akita Pref. Akitashi Omachi 3-chome
    phone
    0188632222
  • 06

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Event dates: August 5-7 Every year

    Visit date: August 7 2019

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata is a sleepy town for much of the year but awakes each August with one of the largest festivals in the Tohoku region. It’s named after a traditional Japanese straw hat that’s decorated with artificial flowers, which are worn by thousands of dancers as they parade through the streets. A massive float of Zao Gongen leads the procession, accompanied by taiko drummers and the hypnotic spinning of hanagasa.

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    The main parade takes place in the evenings, with more than 10,000 dancers giving their unique take on the Hanagasa Dance. Towards the end of the parade, onlookers are encouraged to join in the celebrations, with free dance lessons offered in the lead up near the Yamagata Manabi-kan building. If you want to participate, you can either purchase a flower hat in Yamagata or make your own! Alternatively, you can join one of the hanagasa wind chime-making workshops or bring a tenugui (hand towel) to decorate with a print of Yamagata’s famous landmarks.

    Yamagata can be accessed from Akita by a combination of bus and train. Board the Akita Shinkansen to Sendai Station (2 hours and 25 minutes), then head to the West Exit where buses depart for Yamagata Station (1 hour and 10 minutes).

    Read more
    The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
    Once a year the otherwise sleepy town of Yamagata quadruples in size.…


    How to Join the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
    The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is one of the big festivals of the Tohoku region, and there are plenty of ways for you to take a more active role in it.…


    Official Website : Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasamaturi
    place
    Yamagata Pref. Yamagatashi Tokamachi 1-chome
    phone
    0236428753
  • 07

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Event dates: August 6-8 2019

    Visit date: August 8 2019

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    On your final day, head to the Sendai Tanabata Festival, which is one of the most famous of Japan’s Tanabata celebrations. This festival originated from the Chinese Qixi Festival and was introduced to Japan in the 8th century. It honors the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi on the 7th day of the 7th month and sees central Sendai decorated with thousands of colorful paper decorations.

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Streamers and tanzaku with handwritten wishes are hung from long bamboo poles to brighten the streets while live music and traditional dance performances also take place. The area around Kotodai Park becomes a hive of activity, with a large stage where you can see Bon Odori dancers and plenty of food stalls selling regional treats. A fireworks display is another highlight of this festival on August 5, making it an ideal way to finish your week-long celebration in Tohoku.

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai can be accessed from Yamagata Station to Sendai Station by bus (1 hour and 10 minutes) or along the JR Sendai Line from Yamagata to Sendai (1 hour and 30 minutes). Both routes offer beautiful mountain views and departures are frequent, with buses and trains leaving almost every hour.

    You did it! Seven of the best summer festivals in Tohoku in one week! Since the schedule of the festivals vary on a year by year basis, we highly recommend that you double check the dates of each festival and shuffle around your trips if needed.

    Read more
    The Sendai Tanabata Festival
    During the Sendai Tanabata Festival, the biggest city of Tohoku fills up with countless paper decorations.…


    Things to Do at the Sendai Tanabata Festival
    During the Sendai Tanabata Festival, large parts of the city turn into a large festival zone full of things to see and do.…


    Official Website : Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabatamaturi
    place
    Miyagi Pref. Sendaishi Aoba-ku Ichibanchou 3-chome
    phone
    0222148260

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