Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

Aomori, Tohoku

Gigantic papier-mache dolls decorating the Tohoku night with bright colors.

This event used to be held in the Tohoku District on July 7th according to the lunar calendar. Bamboo and wooden frames are covered with paper illustrated with historic figures and pictures of samurai warriors along with birds and beasts. These are illuminated from inside and set up on yatai floats and cars which proceed in the Aomori Nebuta (Neputa in Hirosaki) parade. Today, the festivals organized in Aomori and Hirosaki are especially well known, attracting tourists from all areas of Japan. They are ranked among the four largest festivals of Tohoku, together with the Akita Kanto Matsuri lantern festival (Akita City), the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri star festival (Sendai City) and the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri flower hat festival (Yamagata City).

There are several versions of its origins. It is widely believed to originate in the custom of neburi-nagashi for casting away into rivers and the sea drowsiness and laziness which were tremendous hindrances in farm work. There is also the legend of how Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro (758-811), the warlord of the day came to stamp out the Ezo people of Hokkaido and the very north of Honshu, the main island, who did not obey the Imperial Court. He hid soldiers inside gigantic dolls as a lure to his enemies and succeeded in destroying them. As a matter of fact, the festival of Aomori City signifies ‘departure for the front’ while that of Hirosaki City signifies ‘triumphant return’.

The greatest attractions of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri are the gorgeous and colorful three-dimensional nebuta designed after warrior dolls , bearing some resemblance to Kabuki, and the very wild dances performed by participants called haneto who march and dance merrily to the sounds of drums and festival music. In contrast, the Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri is characterized by the 60 small and large fan-shaped neputa with pictures depicted from ‘Sangokushi’ or ‘Three Kingdom Saga’ and ‘Suikoden’ or ‘Outlaws of the Marsh,’ both of which are heroic legends handed down in China. The triumphant parade of neputa floats through the streets of Hirosaki in the late afternoon is particularly worth seeing.


throughout Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
August 2nd-7th
Dates and functions are subjects to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.

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