Just like some giant, colorful and animated sculptures, held over the city five nights in a row. Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri features huge human-shaped lanterns famous in the whole country, just as the many dancers’ groups wearing the haneto (the matsuri special costume – everyone is welcome to take part). The festival is a summer highlight of Tohoku and allows one to discover another aspect of the country, the cheerful Japan of matsuri.
There are only two festivals among the Heisei 100 landscapes, and the Nebuta is the first one we are describing. But not the first on Nippon100, as we already wrote about Sakata Matsuri and its child eater lions; and about Taketomi’s Tanadui in Okinawa.
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a well-known festival in Tohoku, held every year in August, from the 2nd to the 7th. Since the 1950s, tour operators have been organizing group trips from the whole country, allowing the Japanese to discover its festive atmosphere. Every night, the sidewalks are covered with platforms and their sold-out seats, and with local families mats.
The lantern floats are not the only feature of the Nebuta. Taikos – Japanese drums – and thousands of dancers are also parading along Aomori’s streets, wearing the traditional haneto (to be bought or rented, from 3000 yen) and singing “Rassera” (ラッセラー), the local version of “Irasshai”, inviting the spectators to take part.
The 24 floats of the Nebuta Matsuri are funded thanks to sponsorship of local and national firms. Some of them even parading with a small mascot lantern: among them, we saw a giant Asahi beer can!
The Nebuta Matsuri, one of the three main of Tohoku along Akita Kanto Matsuri and Sendai Tanabata Masturi, is also to be discovered all year long in the Nebuta Warasse (everyday from 9am to 6/7pm), not far from the station.
How to get there?
During Nebuta Matsuri, the lantern floats are following a three kilometers loop in the city center of Aomori, about 5 minutes walking East of the main station.
Reaching Aomori is not complicated from Tokyo. Thanks to the JR Tohoku Shinkansen, the Northern city is only 3h30 away (about 17500 yen). The journey is even shorter by plane from Tokyo Haneda airport (1h20 and about 30000 yen). Buses are also available (11h, from 5000-6500 yen).