The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a traditional festival held on August 2-7 each year in Aomori City (Aomori Prefecture). Renowned as one of the country’s most iconic festivals, the Nebuta Matsuri attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually (both domestic and from abroad), and in 1980 was designated the status of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.
The event has even been invited overseas, with versions held in the United States as well as many European and Asian countries. The stars of the festival are the nebuta – illuminated floats measuring about 9 meters wide, 7 meters deep, and 5 meters high.
A total of 22 of these giant floats follow a 3.1 kilometer course, shining brilliantly in the darkness. The plaintive sounds of flutes, drums, and cymbals fill the air while throngs of haneto dancers dressed in bright yukata and flowered hats dance around, shouting “Rasseraaa!” One of the main characteristics – and draws – of this festival is that anyone can participate, as long as they are wearing the specified outfit. The magnificent nebuta, the musicians filling the night air with sound, and the wildly dancing haneto become one, drawing the viewer into a whirlpool of fevered excitement and joy.
LAST YEAR'S WINNER
Asako Kitamura never set out to break any barriers. She simply grew up wanting to become a master nebuta maker, just like her father before her. She spent years perfecting the art of building nebuta, giant paper floats built to take on the shape of warrior gods. Last year, Mitamura made history as the first woman to win first place at Japan’s 300-year-old Aomori Nebuta Festival.
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