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Goin’ Japanesque!

Rasse! Rasse! Top 3 Valiant Festivals, Brought to You by Japanese

In Japan during the summer months, there are festivals held in various regions, each with their special traditions of the region.
Among these, we have selected 3 valiant festivals that are made even more exciting with the energy of the people!

 

1. Nebuta Matsuri

ねぶた祭り

The Nebuta Matsuri is a summer festival that is held in Aomori-shi, Aomori Prefecture. It is held from August 2nd to August 7th every year. During the period, there are over 3 million visitors so it is quite a big event.

It is designated as significant intangible folk cultural assets of the country, along with the Neputa Matsuri of Hirosaki. It is super famous as one of the 3 great matsuri (festival) of the Tohoku region. 

1-1. Nebuta

Nebuta2
There are several sources on the origin of the nebuta, but one is that it is a variation of the To-ro (lantern) Nagashi during the Tanabata Festival. They are illuminated using electricity nowadays but the nebuta also used candles in the old days. It seems that the size has gotten a lot bigger compared to the to-ro. Lol

Here’s an article on Toro Nagashi: The Asakusa Summer Night Festival: Floating Lanterns Carrying People’s Sentiments are So Lovely

Nebuta3
The nebuta, which is 5 meters (about 16’ 5) tall and about 20 meters (about 65’ 7) wide is made with the Japanese washi paper pasted onto a framework, which is then colored. You can see the detailed veins of the framework even in the photograph.

The nebuta is famous worldwide. There are even exhibits of the nebuta in various areas of Japan as well as overseas and they are amazing as works of art. 

1-2. Haneto 

跳人

Tip 1
The highlight of the festival is not only the nebuta but the 500 to 1,000 haneto dancers.

Nebuta-Haneto3
They are dressed in vivid colored costume, shout out loud cries “Rassay-ra, rassay-ra” and dance as if they are hopping up and down. It is said that it also means that they will “HANETObasu (ward off)” evil. 

Tip 2
They say that if you find a bell that a haneto drops when they’re dancing, it brings you good luck. 

Nebuta-taiko
A large drum.

Nebuta-Haneto
And the sound of flutes. You can feel the energy of the festival through the images.

1-3. Miss Nebuta

The festival itself started a few hundred years ago, so this is a relatively new event. It is the Miss Nebuta Contest that started in 1972.

MissNebuta1
Of women who are from Aomori, one grand winner and 2 winners, a total of three are selected. The nebuta is really pretty, but it is said that there are many fair-skinned beauties among Tohoku women. 

You definitely want to experience the energy of 3 million tourists!

 

2. Tonami Yotaka Matsuri

となみ夜高祭り

The Tonami Yotaka Matsuri is a festival that is held over 2 days, on the 2nd Friday and Saturday of every June. The festival which has continued from the Taisho period was originally a festival to pray for a bountiful harvest. In recent years, people gather to see the beautiful floats and the energetic event. It is also interesting because in the 2 days it is held, you get to see completely different highlights throughout the event.

2-1. Andon Dashi (Lantern Floats)

行燈山車

yodaka-matsuri-andon1
These floats that are called Yodaka Andon are illuminated in the dark night by using light bulbs within the framework.

yodaka-matsuri-andon
For the framework, materials such as bamboo, wood, wire are used. Japanese washi paper is pasted over it, and then, colored mainly with red colored tones.

Tip 3
The people of the city take 3 months to make it, all by hand. This is Japanese craftsmanship!

2-2. The First Day of the Festival

The program for the first day is to enjoy the beautiful works that so much labor and time has gone into. 

– Gathering of the Andon

yodaka-matsuri-seizoroi
There are 14 floats in total, making a line of about 200 meters (656’)long.

– The Andon Contest

yodaka-matsuri-andon4 yodaka-matsuri-andon2
Once the Andon are all gathered, the contest starts. They compete to see which float will be selected as the most beautiful Yotaka Andon. They are all amazing.

2-3. The Second Day of the Festival

– The Clash of the Andon: Tsukiawase

The Andon floats go at each other, full frontal at an extreme speed. It is an event where they push at and destroy each other.The rules are simple. Whoever gets pushed over loses.

Tip 4
Definitely go and see how much speed a 6 meter (19’8’’) tall float of 5 tons in weight can go on manpower. It is pretty dynamic.

– Finale: Shan Shan

しゃんしゃん

The last event that signals the end of the festival is the Shan Shan. 

yodaka-matsuri
People clap their hands rhythmically, shout out calls and the festival comes to an end. This is definitely worth going and experiencing. The rhythmical beat of the hand claps will resonate in your heart. 

Tip 5
Toyama is now more accessible than ever with the Hokuriku Shinkansen that has connected through in the spring of 2015. Take this opportunity to visit; the number of Andon that gather is the most in all of Toyama prefecture!

 

3. Oomuta Daijyayama Matsuri

大牟田大蛇山祭り

The Oomuta Daijyayama Matsuri is a festival that is held in Oomuta-shi, Fukuoka prefecture. It is said to have started in the early to middle Edo period. About 400 thousand visitors visit during the event period.

3-1. Daijyayama

daijyayama
The float that resembles a large serpent is the daijyayama. It is considered to be a mix of a belief in the water god and worship of the dragon god, represented by the serpent. So dynamic! So awesome!!

daijyayama1

Tip 6
An event where several daijyayama face each other is one of the features of the festival. A lot of fireworks and smoke is used. It looks so mystical enveloped in smoke!

3-2. Dance of 100,000 People

daijyayama2-ladies

Tip 7
Another feature of this festival is the so-odori dance, where a large number of people gather and make a line of about 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) and dance.

daijyayama-men2daijyayama-men
During the festival, not only the daijyayama but many people from the area participate and hold various events.

3-3. Kamase (The Bite)

かませ

daijyayama-kamase
It is said that if the child is bitten by the large fangs of the serpent, the child is ensured a year without illness. Yeah, it’s scary all right.

Tip 8
In the kamase, it is said it is good for a child to cry out loud.

But you can’t help but feel sorry for them.

3-4. The Finale

Once the festival is over, the daijyayama is completely dismantled. Parts of the daijyayama can be taken home as an omamori (talisman). Just the two eyes are offered to the gods in prayer of safety for the entire year.

On the last night of the festival, there is the Oomuta Kaijo Hanabi Festival, where fireworks are shot up over the Ariake Sea bringing the festival to a close.

How was it? Some valiant festivals that make the hot summer even hotter! Definitely go and experience the action that almost comes out of the images. It will sure leave a lasting memory for your entire life!

 

Information: Nebuta Matsuri

Address: Aomori-shi Aomori Prefecture
Access: 5 to 6 minute walk from Aomori Station << Ouu Honsen (to Hirosaki) 4 minutes<<Hayabusa Shinkansen from Tokyo
Date: 8/2 to 8/7
Phone: 017-723-7211(Aomori Kankou Convention Kyokai)

 

Information: Tonami Yotakamatsuri

Address: Honcho, Tonami-shi, Toyama Prefecture
Access:
By Train: 1 minute walk from JR Tonami Station << JR Jyohana Line -24 minutes<<Takaoka Station
By Bus: 1 hour by Tonami Renraku bus from Toyama Kito Kito Airport
Date/Time:
2015: FRI 6/12 to SAT 6/13 
Phone: 0763-33-2109

 

Information: Oomuta Daijyayama

Address: Taishomachi, Oomuta-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Access: Venue is 5-10 minute walk from Oomuta Station. (Free shuttle bus from Oomuta station from 15:00 to 22:00)
from Hakata Station: Oomuta Station <<Kagoshima Honsen (to Fukuma) 60minutes << JR Hakata Station
from Kumamoto Station: Oomuta Station<< Kagoshima Honsen (to Kagoshima) 50 minutes<< JR Kumamoto Station
Date/Time:
2015: SAT 7/18 to SUN 7/19
Phone: 0944-57-6310 (9:30 to 18:00)

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Kimi

About the author

Kimi is a Japanese living in Tokyo. She has spent half her life living overseas in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Her hobbies are traveling, eating, drinking and beautifying. She enjoys yoga and has a daily goal of running 6.5 km to offset her love of beer and junk food.

View all articles by Kimi
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