Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Aomori Nebuta Festival - Enjoy The Fiery Summer Of Northern Japan!
Written by Mayu
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is a traditional celebration held annually in Aomori, in northeastern Japan. This spectacular event is famous for its parades of giant decorated floats. We introduce the festival schedule and access information. Please note that the event is canceled in 2020.
Aomori Nebuta Festival - A Famous Festival in Northern Japan
Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism and Convention Association
Please note that due to COVID-19, the Aomori Nebuta Festival is canceled in 2020.
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is annually celebrated in Aomori Prefecture, which is located in the northern Tohoku region and is a long-standing tradition in Japan. During this spectacular event, gigantic lantern floats (called "nebuta") parade along the main street in Aomori City.
It is said that the Nebuta Festival was originally based on the toro nagashi, a tradition of releasing lanterns (toro) down the river and into the sea on the night of the Tanabata Star Festival(*1), with participants praying for good health. In the Tohoku region, this tradition was referred to as "neburi nagashi," which later became condensed to nebuta, the festival name that is currently used today.
Then, in the middle of the Edo period, about 1716, people started dancing in the festival with lanterns in their hands and decorated floats called "dashi" were also introduced. It wasn’t until the late Edo period that gigantic lantern floats, inspired by the art of kabuki, first appeared and livened up the summertime festival.
Another unique trademark of the Nebuta Festival is the boisterous dance performed by dancers called haneto. This article introduces information regarding the annual dates and venues of the Aomori Nebuta Festival, along with some tips on how to enjoy it to the fullest.
*1 Tanabata: a celebration held in July that signals the changing of the seasons.
The Aomori Nebuta Festival Schedule
Due to COVID-19, the Aomori Nebuta Festival is canceled in 2020. Below is a schedule from 2019, which can provide an idea of what to expect in 2021 and beyond.
You can check the full 2019 Aomori Nebuta Festival schedule down below.
Dates: August 2 (Friday) – August 7 (Wednesday), 2019
The program varies on each day of the festival. Also, please be aware that there will be no nebuta floats on August 1, the eve of the festival.
On August 2 and 3 (19:10-21:00), the local children will carry the "kodomo nebuta" (children’s nebuta) while the adults pull the large nebuta lantern floats. A total of 30 nebutas, showcasing 15 types of floats per group, will be paraded during the procession.
On August 4-6 (19:10-21:00), 20 large-sized nebuta floats are scheduled to appear in the parade. The festival is expected to reach its peak during these three days.
On August 7 (13:00-15:00), as many as 20 large nebuta floats will be in the spotlight. This is the only day, if not golden opportunity, to observe nebutas during the daylight (as opposed to the conventional displays in the evening). Two other events will take place on this day from 19:15 to 21:00, which are the Nebuta Sea Parade at Aomori Bay and the fireworks display, respectively.
The sea parade refers to the grand finale where floats are carried out to sea while placed on ships. Because these two events occur simultaneously, this is a spectacular chance to admire the sea, nebuta floats, and fireworks in one go.
The Aomori Nebuta Festival Venues and How to Reach Them
The Aomori Nebuta Festival is held at Shinmachi-dori and can be easily reached on foot from JR Aomori Station's East Exit. Here is how to conveniently reach Aomori Station.
To get to Aomori Station from Tokyo Station, first take the Hayabusa Shinkansen bound for Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and get off at Shin-Aomori Station. From Shin-Aomori Station, take the JR Ou Main Line bound for Aomori and disembark at Aomori Station, which is the last station.
It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to arrive and it costs 17,550 yen. Keep in mind that there are no non-reserved seats in the Hayabusa Shinkansen, so the ticket fare may vary during the busy seasons.
How to Fully Enjoy the Aomori Nebuta Festival
Here are some tips on how to enjoy the Aomori Nebuta Festival to the fullest.
Spot the Differences among the Nebutas
Needless to say, the showstoppers of the festival are the stunning lantern floats. Perhaps you’ll be able to recognize some of the designs, as many of them originate from kabuki, historical events, mythology, and legends.
With as many as 20 to 30 floats parading per day, you'll see various themes such as Jiraiya, the high-spirited bandit of Kabuki plays, and Son Goku, the Monkey King from the Chinese legend “Journey to the West"—among many other characters.
One of the amazing attractions of the Aomori Nebuta Festival is the debut of a different nebuta each year. Comparing a wide variety of floats is also an entertaining pastime, too.
Join the Festival as a Haneto Dancer
Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism and Convention Association
One of the highlights of the Aomori Nebuta Festival is the throngs of enthusiastic haneto dancers. Their cheerful “rassera” chants—intertwined with their hops, twirls, and twists—will surely keep you on the edge of your seat. Who knows? You might even find yourself dancing along with the captivating performance.
Here is some great news for those who decide to take on the dancing challenge! You simply need to dress up in the haneto clothing to join the festive dance. And there’s more! You can rent the haneto costume at the venue for 4,000 yen.
Where to See Nebuta Floats outside the Festival Season
Although nebuta floats are usually disassembled when the festival is over, you can see some full-sized ones on display at the Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE. In addition, the museum hosts haneto costume try-ons and nebuta-building workshops, which allow visitors to enjoy the Aomori Nebuta Festival all year round!
Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE
Address: Aomori, Aomori, Yasukata 1-1-1
Official Website: http://www.nebuta.jp/warasse/foreign/english.html
|Address||Aomori, Aomori, Yanakawa 1
Near the East Exit of JR Aomori Station
|Accepted Credit Cards||Not Available|
|Nearest station||JR Aomori Station|
|Access||About 5 minutes by foot from Aomori Station|
|Website||http://www.nebuta.or.jp/ (a program-translated English page available)|
**The information on the required time and fee charges is taken from the official website and is current as of June 2019. Please mind that the information is subject to change.
This is a rewritten version of an article publish on April 23, 2017.