The 2012 Aomori Nebuta matsuri begins in Aomori on August 2 and runs through to August 7. The Tohoku's version of the Rio Carnival is one of the biggest events in the country and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators who come from all over Japan and abroad.
The huge illuminated nebuta floats are pulled through the city along a set route at night accompanied by thousands of haneto dancers, calling out the words rasse rasse in the local dialect and musicians playing flutes and drums.
The origins of the Nebuta Festival are obscure but may be related to the Chinese tanabata festival, which is usually celebrated on July 7 in Japan. it is thought the Aomori Nebuta Festival was well established in the town by the 1700s.
The nebuta floats are large wire frames (previously bamboo) covered with Japanese washi paper which have been beautifully painted often with the images of fierce warriors and other historical figures. The floats are illuminated from within by light bulbs which have replaced the previously used candles, which were a fire hazard.
The Nebuta Festival concludes on the 7th August with a daytime parade beginning at 1pm, a boat parade between 7.15pm and 9pm in Aomori Bay when seven floats are loaded on to boats and a huge fireworks display.
Prizes are awarded to the best floats and onlookers are encouraged to purchase or hire a haneto costume and join in the fun!
Nebuta Festival Official Site
Like this blog? Sign up for the JapanVisitor newsletter
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan