The Kanto Festival ("pole lantern festival") will take place this year in Akita city from August 3-6. A pre-festival event also takes place on August 2nd.
The Kanto Festival has its roots in the Edo Period and is a harvest festival, meant to please the gods to bestow a bountiful crop.
Beautifully painted paper lanterns, once illuminated with candles, and now mainly with electric lights are attached to bamboo poles and balanced by their bearers using their hands, foreheads and hips. The poles and the lanterns can weigh between 5-50kg and the largest are as long as 12 meters. Over 40 lanterns can be attached to the poles.
The matsuri is accompanied by the music of drums and flutes with spectators chanting "dokkoisho, dokkoisho". The main parade route is along Chuo Dori and takes place at night for about 90 minutes until about 10.30pm. Around 250 "kanto" poles are hoisted and carried along the route each evening. Daytime events are held at Agora Plaza outside the Seibu Department Store in Akita from 10am-5pm.
The Kanto Festival is one of northern Japan's biggest festivals along with the Tanabata festival in Sendai and the Nebuta festival in Aomori.
To see a demonstration of the festival head to the Akita City Folklore & Performing Art Center where visitors can see a live performance of the incredible balancing acts and also watch videos of past festivals. Costumes, instruments and posters from the Akita Festival are also on display.
Information in English is available on the official website: www.kantou.gr.jp
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan