Akita Kanto Matsuri
Looming up in the darkness, the kanto bamboo poles waver like ears of rice plants
Together with the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri (Sendai City), the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori City) and the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri (Yamagata City) this major Akita summer festival praying for an abundant harvest of the five grains, namely wheat, rice, beans, foxtail millet and Chinese millet, is one of the three main festivals of Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori, Yamagata and Akita prefectures). A kanto is a bamboo pole eight meters high with a number of cross poles attached which have 46 paper lanterns shaped like rice bales hanging from them, and is decorated at the very top with thin shreds of paper between wooden sticks. They act to drive away evil spirits through prayers offered to Shinto and Buddhist deities. Kanto weighing 60 kg are called o-waka and smaller versions are called chu-waka, ko-waka and yo-waka in diminishing order. All these kanto are in the shape of Akita cedar or of the ears of rice plants.
At the festival, energetic youths dressed in short jackets, hachimaki headbands, white tabi socks and zori straw sandals take turns in hoisting up the kanto one at a time to the sound of flutes and drums. Then they parade through the town while ensuring that the lights of the paper lanterns do not go out. Hands are not used to support the kanto. The men prop the poles upright on their hips, shoulders or foreheads and change their postures while shouting stoically as they try to outdo each other. The origins of this festival lie in the serene Tanabata ritual, from an annual festival held on the evening of July 7th to worship stars, which is called neburi-nagashi for wiping out diseases and malicious energy inviting illness. This ritual came to be performed in grand style around the time of Satake Yoshimasa (1775-1815), who ruled as Lord of the Akita Clan.
[Walk]10 minutes' walk from JR Akita Station.
Place: Kanto O-dori
(between the Sanno Jujiro Crossroads and Nichomebashi Bridge)
Dates: August 3rd -6th
City: Akita City, Akita Prefecture