The Aomori Nebuta Festival: Escape the Hot Summer in Northern Tohoku
Aomori Prefecture is located in the northern part of the Japanese archipelago. The Aomori Nebuta Festival held in that area is said to have originated either as a variation of the toronagashi ceremony, where paper lanterns are floated down a river at a Tanabata star festival, or else having mimicked the Nebuta Festival of Hirosaki, where people carried around lanterns and danced between 1716 and 1735.
Toro lanterns are originally the baskets to place the lights. Toro lanterns used for the Aomori Nebuta Festival, however, can reach 9 meters wide and 5 meters tall. Washi paper was originally pasted onto bamboo frames, although wires are used nowadays. Square logs are used, and pictures of characters from historical plays were drawn on them. They are painted with colorful paints, and they are lit from inside (candles were used in the past, but light bulbs are used nowadays.) Each lantern is then lifted and carried by 40 to 50 people and marched around the city.
The theme for Nebuta lanterns can be historical characters from Japan and China, as well as the local legends and heroes, and even when the same themes are used in the following year, new Nebuta lanterns are created for each year's festival.
The festival is held from August 2nd to 7th annually, and the city receives as much as 3 million tourists. Since the summer in northern Japan is cooler than that of the Kanto and Kansai regions, many people visit the city to get away from the heat. Others simply come to experience the grandeur scale of the festival. The festival is known as one of the largest festivals in Japan, and was designated as a significant intangible folk cultural asset of the country.
Images provided by Aomori Tourism and Convention Association.