Written by Catrina Sugita
Date: 2nd–7th August 2022
Location: Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Aomori Nebuta Festival 2022
The Epitome of Summer in Aomori, featuring giant colorful human-shaped lantern floats!
Aomori's Nebuta Matsuri (or Neputa Matsuri, as it is known in Hirosaki) is believed to be a a variant of the Tanabata Festival with the added combination of traditions and customs from Aomori's Tsugaru Area. The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators each year, who all come to see the main attraction: the parade of impressive human-shaped floats called Nebuta. Measuring 9 meters wide, 7 meters long, and 5 meters high, these gigantic floats often depict historical and mythical figures, such as ancient warlords, historical figures, and kabuki characters. Different eye-catching facial expressions are painted on each float, including beautiful, elegant, melancholic, daring and aggressive ones!
Alongside the parade of floats pulled by people, Haneto dancers (literally "prancing people") leap and bound down the streets of Aomori City to the exhilirating melodies of the Nebuta Bayashi musicians. Bayashi is the type of music played in various Japanese performing arts, such as Noh and Kabuki. Nebuta Bayashi consists of taiko drums, fue flutes & teburigane hand cymbals, which are accompanied by the shouting of the festival's signature chant, "Rase-ra, Rase-ra!" This chant is believed to be related to Hokkaido's Tanabata folk song "bring out the candles," which repeats the phrase "dase, dase" (bring them out). Anyone can join the dance as long as they wear the haneto costume, an integral part of the festival’s charm (due to Covid-19, those who wish to join in should book in advance).
Nebuta Matsuri takes place rain or shine, (in the case of rain, Nebutas are covered in plastic sheets), so come and have a taste of Aomori culture this summer!
The wide adoption of paper, bamboo, and candles is said to have brought about lantern-making, and eventually, ultimately leading to the creation of todays intricate Nebuta floats. Nebuta Artisans, known as Nebutashi (or nebuta masters), start designing the following year's Nebuta as soon as the festival comes to a close. It takes an entire year to prepare the Nebuta with the cooperation of 300 Nebutashi! The face and limbs are created first, followed by the wire structure, and finally, the whole design is covered with Japanese washi paper and the designs are carefully painted on. Lightbulbs brighten the inside of the floats, giving them their signature look.
The Festival's Program
The festival opens on the eve of the 1st of August. Nebuta parades are held every evening (except for the 7th, when it is held in the afternoon), with the parades of the 2nd and 3rd being somewhat smaller than the full-swing event taking place from the 4th to 6th of August.
Nebuta Festival Eve
- 1st of August from 6:00PM–8:00PM
- 2nd–3rd August from 7:00PM
- 4th–6th August from 6:50PM (Award Winning Nebutas are paraded on the 6th!
- 7th August 1:00PM–3:00PM
Nebuta Marine Procession & Fireworks
- August 7th 7:15PM–9:00PM