The north of Japan is fairly cool in the summer, with the occasional ocean breeze, and plenty mom and pop stores, Aomori city is the place to be. I was hundreds of kilometres from home, and people were starting to gather. In August, Aomori is packed with people for a week-long festival called Nebuta Matsuri. Obviously I was not going to miss it. So, I packed my bags and drove up a whopping 6 hours up from Fukshima with excitement and expectations for this great festival.
Types of Nebuta Maturi
The annual festivals, known as Nebuta and Neputa Matsuri, are a type of summer festival. The largest of these festivals is held in Aomori City. The highlight of the experience is the daily parade of enormous lantern floats. They are flanked by large taiko drums, musicians, and dancers. The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri together with Akita‘s Kanto Matsuri and Sendai‘s Tanabata make up the Tohoku Sandai Matsuri (Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku Region).
Nebuta Festival in Aomori City
The streets were filled with food stalls, and dancers were waiting in anticipation for the start of the parade. The floats are huge and are accompanied by taiko drummers, flute and hand cymbals players, and hundreds of dancers. These performers are called haneto or people who dance in the local Tsugaru dialect. They chant “Rassera, Rassera” while performing a dance that looks a little bit like skipping. I even bumped into a few friends who drove up from Fukushima to participate as dancers too! If anyone is ever interested in renting an outfit, festival clothes are readily available for approximately ￥4000. I was not aware of that opportunity and wore my own yukata instead.
The crowd was cheering loudly, with hands clapping along to the beat of the taiko. Taiko are Japanese drums. My friends and I weaved amongst the crowd to follow and cheer the participants. We also grabbed a drink or two at the various food stalls. I found myself swept away with the lively atmosphere. I joined the parade with a “Ressera, rassera” cheers, and by the end of the night had lost my voice.
Every night, different floats continued to make their appearances. By the 4th and 5th day, all floats were out, and the festival was in full swing. Free seating was available along the street. If you ever needed to use the toilet as a result of drinking too much, just ask the friendly vendors. They would be more than happy to accommodate your needs.
I love festivals and the vibrant atmosphere they bring. I also love the hospitality of tipsy vendors and the free snacks they give (every now and then). The feeling of inclusiveness that the Japanese people have made me feel. And I cannot wait to join in on the fun again.
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