Invitation to the “Destination TOHOKU Campaign”Revival after earthquake disaster!2012.08.

Right now, the northeast (Tohoku) of Japan is hot! Having been through 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, sightseeing in the Tohoku region is now being promoted by the Destination TOHOKU Campaign (running from March 18, 2012 to March 31, 2013), which has been jointly established by government and citizens. This exhibition regards the whole northeast (Tohoku) area a giant venue, with visitors warmly welcomed to various sightseeing programs that have been prepared in each location. Here we will introduce the Destination TOHOKU Campaign and explain how to get the most out of it.

Travel navigators provide support for local contact!

There are 28 main sightseeing areas referred to in the Destination TOHOKU Campaign as “zones”, which are equivalent to the pavilions seen in traditional exhibitions. So-called travel salons are established as bases for sightseeing information in each zone, and travel navigators are permanently stationed at these salons in order to provide tourists with opportunities for encounters with local people, scenery and things. Local people with in-depth knowledge of sightseeing in their respective areas are appointed as travel navigators, and their role is to provide services to visiting tourists while also conveying the appeal of the region. Therefore, in addition to so-called sightseeing spots, travel salons also provide uniquely local information detailing popular ramen restaurants, bars, and so on.
 

Add to your travel memories with the “Tohoku Passport” and official guidebook!

The “Tohoku Passport” can be received at travel salons. The front cover of this passport was drawn by Manga artist Tetsuya Chiba, who is famous for his work on the Ashita no Joe series. Region-specific stamps can be received at the above-mentioned travel salons, so you can use it as a tool for communication with local people as you attempt to collect all of the available stamps. Special offers can be received from participating facilities and stores when you show your passport. The number of participating stores is set to continue increasing. Information regarding participants will be uploaded to the official website, so please keep checking back.

 
The official guidebook is another feature of the Destination TOHOKU Campaign that should not be overlooked. This guidebook outlines recommended events and highlights of the six prefectures comprising the Tohoku region, interviews with celebrities from the region, and messages from each prefectural governor. The impact of the Tetsuya Chiba-designed front cover is most striking. The official guidebook is available from travel salons free of charge, so we hope you will pick up a copy and take a look.
 

Countless events await you!

Various festivals and events are held in each zone. Tohoku will come alive as we enter the summertime holiday season, so let’s take a look at some of the centerpiece events.

 

You too can become a dancer at the festival!

For example, from August 2 to 7 the Aomori Nebuta Festival takes places in the Aomori/Asamushi Hot Spring zone. At this festival, around 20 floats transforming into an extraordinary 3D warrior picture parade through the center of Aomori City. Tourists can also freely take part in the festival as dancers called haneto (“hoppers”), and there is no need for registration or application either in advance or on the day. However, please wear full costume when participating. Haneto costume sets are on sale at department stores, etc. for around 10,000 yen, although there are also stores that offer costume hire and fitting for around 4,000 yen.

 

Receive dance lectures when taking part in the festival

The Morioka Sansa Odori Festival takes places from August 1 to 4 in the Morioka/Shizukuishi zone. This festival features a parade of more than 18,000 people dancing to the rhythm of 13,000 taiko drums. After the end of the parade, Wa-Odori dances are held inside various venues at each location, with everyone free to join in – from Miss Sansa through to general parade participants and even ordinary visitors, regardless of whether or not they are wearing yukata clothes. Even if you do not know how to dance, you will be kindly invited to join in with the Wa-Odori dance while receiving instruction from a Sansa/Oherense teacher. Put everything into it as you enjoy the excitement of the parade in summer evenings spent in Morioka.
 

The luxuriously decorated largest city in Tohoku

The Sendai Tanabata Festival is held from August 6 to 8 in the Sendai/Akiu/Sakunami zone. In this festival, all areas inside Sendai City, such as the arcade that extends from the front of Sendai Station, are decorated with bamboo grass, with particularly gorgeous decorations in the center of the city. These bamboo decorations are prepared by hand by people from each store in the shopping district, and it is said that a single display costs between several hundred-thousand yen and several million yen. The details of decorations are kept as company secrets until the displays commence from 8am on August 6 in a competition to determine which is the most gorgeous. The decorations of each store are judged, with gold, silver and bronze awards announced on the afternoon of August 6, and the nameplates of each winner are attached to a decorative banner. The sight of delicate Japanese paper decorations under clear skies fluttering in the wind is truly picturesque.
 

Festival of dreams illuminated with lamplights

The Akita Kanto Festival runs from August 3 to 6 in the Akita/Oga zone. During this festival, Akita City is magically lit up with countless lamps on poles. The largest of these is 12 meters long, weighing 50kg and holding 46 paper lanterns, and it is carried in a wonderful must-see performance requiring the holders to balance it with the palms of their hands, foreheads, shoulders, backs, and so on. There are five types of technique for these lamp poles – the “handing over” type and the “palm”, “forehead”, “shoulder” and “lower back” types – and of these the “lower back” technique is the most advanced, requiring incredible amounts of training. First, the carrier takes the lamp pole in the palm of his/her strongest hand and lifts it up so that it is still. It is then moved from between the fingers and is rested on the carrier’s back, with the upper body inclined sideways to a certain degree, and both legs opened out to achieve balance. Among the basic performances, this is a great move that looks impressive at the climax of the event.

 

Skillful dancing groups in beautiful clothing

The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is held from August 5 to 7 in the Ueyama/Tendo/Yamagata Zao zone. At this festival, dancers wearing elegant clothing and “hanagasa” conical hats arranged with flowers perform in groups along the main street of Yamagata City, ahead of brilliantly-colored floats and against a backdrop of high-spirited cheers of “Yassho, makasho!” and the stirring timbre of taiko drums. This massive parade features around 10,000 people in vivid colorful dress.
 

Parade of Japan’s largest “waraji” sandal

The Fukushima Waraji Maturi takes place on August 3 and 4 in the Fukushima zone. On the opening day of this festival, there is a dedication of Japan’s largest “waraji” sandal, 12 meters long and weighing two tones, followed by a brilliant performance from a Waraji-Odori dance group along a course to various venues in time with reggae-style marching songs. The festival continues with an enthusiastic hip-hop-style “Dancing Soda Night” that is performed until the finale. On the second day, there is an energetic waraji sandal race for elementary school students, after which there are lively races for women and for all. The festival then continues with another hip-hop-style “Dancing Soda Night” up until the finale.

Various other festivals and events are held in each zone of Tohoku throughout the summertime, continuing through to the fall and beyond. We hope you will all take this opportunity to visit Tohoku and experience the charms of this region.

 

Experience the true charm of Tohoku

Tohoku’s unique nature and culture and the warmth of its people have attracted people for centuries and continue to do so. British traveler Isabella Bird called Tohoku “the Arcadia (paradise) of the Orient”, while haiku poet Matsuo Basho admired places such as Matsushima in Miyagi. It is hoped that sightseeing in the Tohoku region will develop as a new style of tourism not merely focused on sightseeing for pleasure, but also based on experiencing the history of its towns, the lifestyles of its people, and so on. Such local charms can be experienced at the Destination TOHOKU Campaign.
 
Visit the official website for in-depth information regarding Destination TOHOKU Campaign
Tourist information from the six prefectures of Tohoku has been compiled on the official website so that it can be used as a portal website for sightseeing in Tohoku. The site is updated by local people transmitting the latest information. The site introduces guides and salons from each zone, so please make use of it when travelling. There are also various suggestions such as “stay programs” introduced on the website, and you can personally experience the local culture through forms of sightseeing where tourists can participate. At present, as the first part of these zone transmissions, there are introductions to various festivals and events held in each zone as well as a “Tohoku Summer Pride” project in which zones compete to promote their respective attractions. An official Twitter feed and Facebook page have also been prepared, so please get involved by commenting and leaving feedback.
 
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