"Akita Kanto Festival" Glittering Rice Plants in the Night Sky
Akita Prefecture is located in northeastern Japan alongside the Sea of Japan, and is known for its unique peninsula shaped like a nose. The Akita Kanto Festival is one of the three biggest festivals in the Tohoku region of Japan, and is known as the festival of glittering rice plants in the night sky.
The festival features 46 poles holding paper lanterns, called sao-to lanterns, and these represent rice plants. Each weighs 50kg, and they can be up to 12m high. the performers, called sashi-te, will balance these lanterns on the palms of their hands, forehead, shoulder, and hips, showing all sorts of tricks to the audience. This requires a very particular balance, and is said to be 40 percent strength and 60 percent technique. Many if not most of the performers work on perfecting their balancing skills on a daily basis since kindergarten.
During the day, there is an area in the venue where one can experience a child-sized sao-to. Also during the day, there is a "Sao-to Myo Gikai" — an assembly where sao-to experts compete against each other, showing off their skills to accompanying music.
When the sun goes down and all becomes dark, it marks the start of the Akita Kanto Festival. Along with the beautiful melody of music, and the chanting of "Dokkoisho! Dokkoisho!", 250 of the glimmering lanterns are released into the sky, dyeing the summer night into a golden color, together with prayers for another year of plentiful crops prosperity for the city and its residents.
Images provided by the Akita Kanto Executive Committee
Akita Kanto Festival