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Akita Kanto Festival 2023: Spectacular Night Sky With 10,000 Lanterns!

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The Akita Kanto Festival is held each year in Akita from the 3rd to the 6th of August, to pray for good health and a good harvest. We bring you information about this magical festival, where you can witness 10,000 lanterns rising up in the night sky.

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The Akita Kanto Festival, a Major Summer Celebration in Northern Japan

Akita Kanto Festival

Photo courtesy of Akita Prefecture General Information Guide

The Akita Kanto Matsuri, or Akita Kanto Festival is an annual festival held in summer in Akita City, northern Japan.

The Akita Kanto Festival is held as a celebration to pray for good crops and the good health of the citizens. It is usually held every year from the 3rd to the 6th of August. Together with the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, and the Tanabata Festival in Sendai, it is considered to be one of The Three Great Tohoku Festivals, and it certainly is one magnificent festival the Tohoku region is proud of.

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The Origins of the Akita Kanto Festival

It is believed that the origins of the Akita Kanto Festival could be tracked down to the old custom of neburi nagashi, often performed during the Tanabata, Obon, and other festivals of the old Japanese calendar (*1).

Neburi nagashi is the tradition when people try to vanquish drowsiness and sleeping sickness, and pray for their health, and is held at midyear, from the 7th until the 15th of July. The reason behind such ill feelings against sleepiness is the physical similarity between sleeping and sickness, and even death. It is said that during the original festival, people would set adrift boats and toro lanterns down the river.

Today, this custom has undergone some transformations – it becomes a parade in which men carry around 5 to 12-meter-long poles with many lanterns attached to them – these are the so-called kanto poles. They come in various sizes and could weigh from 5 kg (the smallest kanto pole) to 50 kilos (the largest pole)! But that is not the only thing to be awed by – a pole can have from 24 to 46 lanterns on it, so the total number of them might even go as far as 10,000 lanterns, shining their way through the festival!

Since the lantern pole almost looks like an ear of rice, this festival is not only entrusted with your prayers for good health, but with the ones for good harvest as well.

In this article, read everything there is to know about the venues and access to the festival, how to enjoy it completely and what to bring with you, and other useful information about the magnificent Akita Kanto Festival.

* 1 Japan's traditional calendar: the calendar used until Meiji Period, originating from the Chinese calendar. The Tanabata Festival (the 7th of July in the traditional calendar) should be celebrated at the beginning of August according to the Gregorian calendar.

Akita Kanto Festival 2023 Schedule

Akita Kanto Festival 2023 Dates: August 3 – 6

Make sure you don’t miss out on the grandiose beginning of the festival – the kanto poles enter the scene starting from 18:50, and get carried down the Kanto Avenue (one of Akita’s biggest streets; also the main venue of the festival, from Sannojujiro to the Nichomebashi).

A special performance takes place starting from 19:25 – the showcase when performers balance the kanto poles on the top of their palms, foreheads, and such. Sadly, the exciting performance only lasts until 20:35, after which the photo-shooting session starts – the so-called “close-up experience” when you can take pictures of the kanto poles. The ceremony ends by 20:50, with the poles leaving the venue.

Finding the Kanto Festival Venue From the Station

You’ll catch sight of Kanto Matsuri easily – it is held in the vicinity of Akita Station. The most comfortable way to get to Akita Station from Tokyo is surely by shinkansen – ride the JR shinkansen Komachi bound for Akita from Tokyo Station, and get off at the last stop, Akita Station. It will take you about 3 hours and 50 minutes, and the fare is 18,140 yen. (*Consider using the JR-EAST Pass to save on expenses.)

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Upon arrival at Akita Station, head to the Kanto Avenue (Kanto Oodori, from Sannojujiro to Nichomebashi), walk for approximately ten minutes, and enjoy – you’re in time to witness some spectacular performances!

Akita Station
Address: Akita, Akita, Naka-dori 7-1-2

Highlights: Exciting Performances and Local Food

Although you might get mesmerized by the wonderful and unusual skills of the performers, it would be a pity not to try all that gourmet food since you’re already there!

Let your eyes and stomach decide which local gourmet “on-the-go” dish looks the most appealing, and make the festival joy double! We will introduce some of the greatest food for the eyes and the taste buds here.

The Special Skills of Kanto Performers

Akita Kanto Festival

Photo courtesy of Akita Prefecture General Information Guide

You’ll recognize the exquisite performance of Kanto Festival in an instant – why, the performers are balancing the kanto poles on their palms, foreheads, shoulders, and such! The performance is adjusted to the rhythm of taiko and ohayashi (*2), and the combination of the music and the spectacular skills are worthy of your awe, for sure! It is said that balancing on the hip is the most difficult and challenging of all, but be sure to check out all the performances. We guarantee you won’t be able to look away!

*2 Ohayashi: the music performed during the festivals.

Akita Kanto Festival Food

Akita Kanto Festival
Akita Kanto Festival
Akita Kanto Festival

Photo courtesy of Akita Prefecture General Information Guide

If you’re interested in all the food you can see while strolling around during the festival, brace yourself, because we have some exciting news to tell you – that is the local gourmet food festival, held at the same time as the Kanto Festival! All the specialties of Akita are assembled there, and it is located just five minutes away from the main venue of the Kanto Festival.

You can taste the famous inaniwa udon, one of the three ruling udon noodles of Japan (goto udon, sanuki udon, and inaniwa udon), yokote yakisoba, with a sunny-side-up fried egg topping, or the baba hera ice-cream, a beautiful looking ice-cream made by elderly ladies of Akita (in Akita dialect, they are called baba), using a cooking spatula (hera in Japanese).

There is plenty to choose from at the numerous stalls planted around the venue, so choose wisely, and enjoy both of the festivals to your heart’s content!

What to Wear and What to Bring to the Festival

If you are at a loss about your festival outfit or the stuff you might need to bring, take a look down below to make sure you’ve got everything covered.


The average temperature in August in Akita is 24.9 degrees Celsius (source: Japan Meteorological Agency (Japanese)). However, the temperature could easily rise over 30 degrees during the day, so be sure to take extra precautions against heatstrokes.

Also, it gets slightly colder in the mornings and the evenings, so it would be prudent to bring a light shawl, a thin hoodie, or similar.

Things Not to Forget (Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Towels, Water)

Take care of your health by using sunglasses, sunscreen, and such! You might even sweat while sightseeing or watching the event, so a towel or a handkerchief will come in handy. But, first things first – be sure to remember to hydrate, in order to protect yourself from heat stroke!

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Previous experience as an editor at a women's media company in Japan. I lived in Australia for a while and joined MATCHA after returning to Japan. In charge of editing, promoting sponsored content, and creative direction. I love watching Western TV series.
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