Written by Catrina Sugita
Date: 3rd–8th August 2022
Location: Akita City, Akita Prefecture
Akita Kanto Matsuri 2022
Admire a Jaw-dropping Display of Giant Golden Ears of Rice Swaying in the Night's Sky
What is Kanto Matsuri?
Although related to the Tanabata Matsuri, Akita's Kanto Festival developed into its own unique event sometime during the Horeki Period (1750–1765). This 270 year old tradition practiced in Akita City and surrounding areas since before the feudal era, was originally meant to ward off illness and evil spirits in the midsummer. Later, it became the festival praying for bountiful harvests with a signature display of lanterns, called Kanto, lighting up the night's sky. These incredible lanterns of varying sizes are made up of a total of 280 bamboo poles and are decorated with 10 000 lanterns, which closely resemble ears of rice swaying in the summer breeze, and embody the wishes of the locals for a good harvest.
Kanto Matsuri's Signature Elements
The largest Kanto's, called, Okawa are decorated with 46 lanterns (lit by real candles!), measure 12 meters high, and weigh a whopping 50kg! They are wielded by Sashite performers, who move the Kanto from the palm of their hands, to their foreheads, to their shoulders, to their lower backs, and back again! Performers also gradually add extensions to the pole until the Kanto reaches its maximum height. This manoevering of the bamboo rice ears is a traditional technique that has been passed down for generations, requiring diligent daily training, as well as good balance. It is an incredible display of strength and otherworldly skill that can't be missed!
Alongside the performers, the crowd becomes alive with music played by Hayashi musicians and the matsuri's signature chant "dokkoisho, dokkoisho." The "oetasah, oetasa, nekko tsuita, oetasa" chant can also occasionally be heard from the crowds. These chants represent rice deepening their roots into the ground whenever the Sashite skillfully controls the Kanto stably on their palm, forehead, or other body part.
Events to Enjoy Other Than the Main Parade!
Other than the main event, which is held every evening, you can also enjoy the "Kanto exquisite skill competition." held in the afternoons of the 4th and 5th from 9:00AM to 3:40 PM as well as on the 6th from 9:20AM to 3:00PM. Here, you can admire roud Sashite and Hayashi performers display their skills and passion, that can be hard to fully grasp and admire during the evening performance!