Summer Festivals in Tohoku
This article was published on
17th May, 2021
Japan has countless festivals (also known as ‘Matsuri’ in Japanese) celebrated annually.
Most of these festivals are done in celebration or in commemoration of a certain historical event, or reliving stories of ancient Japanese legends.
Depending on the purpose behind its celebration, these festivals vary in terms of their vibe and energy.
Some festivals are loud and fiery, while some are calm and meditative.
Speaking of which, the Tohoku region of Japan initiates some of Japan’s most renowned historical and artistic festivals!
Some festivals are held over several days to tie in with a specific season.
Majority of these festivals take place during the month of August.
Following the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 with Tohoku receiving the hardest hit, the Tohoku Rokkon Festival was incepted in attempts to rebuild hope, support and restoration for a wounded nation.
This signatory and memorable festival is a combination of 6 festivals of the Tohoku region.
It allows you to enjoy a full fledged integrated cultural experience of these festivals all in one place!
The 6 festivals comprises:
1. Aomori Nebuta Festival
2. Sendai Tanabata Festival
3. Akita Kanto Festival
4. Fukushima Waraji Festival
5. Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
6. Morioka Sansa Festival
The festival is held in a different Tohoku prefectures each year.
This combination festival was celebrated for 6 years consecutively, with 2016 being its last.
Despite its closure, the 6 festivals returned to its original state and is currently practiced in their respective cities.
The Tohoku Rokkon Festival was taken over by Tohoku ‘Kizuna’ (means ‘bond’ in Japanese) Festival, and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020.
As such, these festivals in Tohoku is more than just a spectacle, but an eventful discovery of Japan’s authentic culture.
An Enchanting Summer of Colours!
If you are visiting Japan in the summer, immerse yourself in the cooler climate of Tohoku for a more comfortable adventure across the region, experiencing some of these ‘colourful’ and most talked about festivals:
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is a Summer festival featuring large lantern floats held annually in Tohoku.
Its history dates back to 800’s, where the nebuta floats were instigated by General Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro, instructing his army to create these gruesome creatures from cloth and bamboo to scare away the enemy.
Earning a recognition of being the most colourful festival in Japan, the event is held from 2nd to 7th of August, and attracts approximately 2.8 million tourists every year.
Much of the event consist of daily parade of enormous lantern floats (Nebuta), flanked by large taiko drums, musicians and dancers.
More than 20 groups contribute to the flow of the event – “Kushikata” to assist in playing chopsticks and drums, the “Fushimochi” to instruct the movement of the Nebuta, and “Looper”, to move the carriage of the Nebuta (imprinted with large mythical figures, gods, and Kabuki images).
These Nebuta lantern embody a height of 15 to 30 feet tall!
As the parade takes place with the movement of the large lantern floats of vivid colours featuring mythical gods and figures, come and stroll along with the performers to participate in the excitement!
The parade will take place for 6 days, and on its finale, the Nebuta lanterns will be placed into boats to operate its final movement at the Aomori harbour, followed by a display of about 11,000 fireworks to wrap up the festival.
The Sendai Tanabata Festival is a ‘star’ festival named after the Tanabata Legend of a doomed love affair between two star-crossed lovers, Orihime (Altair) and Hikoboshi (Vega) who could only meet during on the seventh day of the seventh month once a year – that day was known as Tanabata.
The festival is held every year for 3 consecutive days from 6th to 8th of August in the city of Sendai.
It features thousands of colourful streamers (paper decorations) made out of washi paper and bamboo, that are draped along the city’s shopping arcades and are lined in a row each competing for their glamour, expressing its own unique colour combination and designs.
The festival is held in hope for the assurance of family safety and riddance of illnesses.
The event captures more than 2 million people every year.
Held in the main street of Akita City on 3rd to 6th of August, the Akita Kanto Festival is a unique summer festival that is regarded as an important cultural asset of Japan, enduring a history of more than 260 years.
The festival highlights an impressive depiction of highly skilled performers using various tricks with their hands, forehead, shoulders, and waist to balance long bamboo poles (Kanto) attached with 46 brightly lit paper lanterns.
The height of the bamboo poles comes in different lengths with its maximum measuring to about 12 meters high.
The performance is very exciting to watch as visitors and even onlookers are thrilled and captivated by the numerous balancing tricks portrayed by the performers.
The Aomori Nebuta, Sendai Tanabata and the Akita Kanto Festival makes up the three great festivals of the Tohoku Region.
The Morioka Sansa Odori Festival is a traditional dance festival where performers in large group assemble and dance in unison with synchronized musical drumbeats, of which each is carried while they dance.
The event takes place in Morioka city, Iwate, that runs from 1st to 4th of August.
Its history is inspired by a Japanese legend where a wicked demon was punished by the god of Mitsuishi Shrine, of which the god of Mitsuishi Shrine commanded the demon to swear that he would abolish his evil deeds.
As a sign of his pledge, the demon placed his hand on a large rock and left a handprint.
The villagers rejoiced to dancing around the rock for days chanting, “sansa, sansa” in celebration of this victory, leading to the birth of Sansa, as well as the name “Iwate,” which means “rock hand.”
Every year, the festival comprises of over 10,000 taiko drummers, wooden flute players, and dancers that parade through the city.
It’s been recognized in the Guinness World Record for being the largest drumming parade in the world!
Fukushima Waraji Matsuri (Straw-Sandals Festival) is a festival held every year within Shinobu Street in Fukushima-city of Fukushima Prefecture.
The festival carries a history of 300 years.
It is held annually on the first weekend of August, which follows a procession of 100 people shouldering a gigantic ‘Waraji’ (Straw Sandal), weighing about 12 tons, and a width of 12 meters to be dedicated to Haguro shrine in Mount Shinobu.
As such, this serves as a prayer offering by the nation wishing for good health, and safe travels.
A mass dance (Waraji Odori) equally takes place, where people variously dressed up in pop and funky style Yukata (traditional summer kimono) and other outfits perform cheerful dances.
More than 250,000 people visit this popular festival every year.
The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is one of the major summer festivals of the Tohoku area.
Held every year since 1964, the festival runs from 5th to the 7th of August, drawing over 1 million people over three days.
The festival highlights a celebration of traditional music and dance for everyone to participate and enjoy.
The dancing follows hypnotic rhythms of taiko drums, consisting of 10,000 local dancers in dazzling traditional Japanese costumes and hats adorned with safflower (an iconic symbol of Yamagata).
These festivals can be easily accessed from Tokyo and other cities by Shinkansen which is covered by JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area).🚆
Let’s go to Tohoku area by Shinkansen and have an amazing summer vacation to be remembered!🌻
Explore the Tohoku region with JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)🎫 to save on the travel budget!
The pass covers 5 days of unlimited rides on JR trains🚃 and Shinkansen🚄 in the area.
Click the link below to get more information:
Tags : tohoku, miyagi, Festival, Akita, Yamagata, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate