The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region and it was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1980. Nebuta refers to the colorful floats shaped in the forms of famous historical and mythological Japanese characters.
The festival takes place annually from August 2nd to August 7th. Local residents devote an entire year into constructing the floats which typically measure 15 to 30 feet tall and are made of fragile washi paper placed over a wire and a bamboo frame. Hundreds of light bulbs are placed throughout the floats enhancing the stunning colors of the nebuta at night.
There are three types of nebuta floats: the children’s nebuta, the local organization’s nebuta (which are smaller in size) and the regional nebuta which are immense. The smaller nebuta, often pulled by children, are paraded throughout the city during the first two days of the festival, from August 2nd to the 3rd. The larger nebuta require great strength to move and therefore are only displayed from August 4th to the 7th. The floats are carried through the city on a designated route during the evening from August 2nd to the 6th, and only during the daytime on August 7th. A fireworks show is held on the evening of the final day as the top three floats are transported to ships in Aomori Harbor to cruise along the bay.
Festival participants dressed in traditional haneto costumes dance around the hand-pulled floats to music provided by taiko drummers and other musicians. Onlookers are encouraged to participate, provided that they wear the haneto. The costumes are sold in supermarkets and department stores all across the prefecture and a full set (excluding the flower hat) can be purchased for around ¥10,000. Costumes can also be rented at places along the processional route for ¥4,000.
The festival draws an estimated 3 million people annually from all walks of life. If you have an opportunity to visit Aomori in August, be sure to take advantage of this awe inspiring spectacle.
Aomori Nebuta Executive Committee
Aomori Tourism and Convention Association
Aomori Port Passenger Ship Terminal Bldg. 2F, 1-4-1 Yanagawa, Aomori, 038-0012 Japan
TEL 81-17-723-7211 FAX 81-17-723-7215 / firstname.lastname@example.org