Fantasy goes on display at Nebuta Festival


Staff Writer

Although staying at home in the air conditioning is tempting in this sweltering weather, if you’re here for the summer you might as well embrace the heat and sweat it out with everyone else at a festival.

The Nebuta Festival is held in Aomori Prefecture and lasts five days. During that time, huge floats that resemble warriors and demons are lit up like lanterns and paraded around the city. Hundreds of performers dance around the floats, which can reach five meters high.

The floats will compete for prizes such as the Mayor’s Award, judged on things like construction and appearance.

When accompanied by energetic music and enthusiastic dancers, these papier-mâché figures almost look as if they have been brought to life. The festival’s finale will feature a fireworks display and a parade of boats.

Over its 300-year history, the festival has grown and now attracts roughly 3 million visitors — making it vital for the local economy. Special pre-paid viewing seats often sell out well in advance.

Visitors are also encouraged to actively participate in the dancing for free, as long as they dress in traditional festival attire.

The Nebuta Festival has even traveled overseas, with floats being displayed in countries such as Great Britain, the United States and Denmark.

Although it may seem counterproductive in the humidity, the Japanese traditionally held such energetic summer festivals as a way to beat the heat. Perhaps it’s easy to forget about the sweat when you’re in awe of the festivity.

Nebuta Festival takes place in Aomori on Aug. 2-7 (It starts at around 7:10 p.m.). Anyone can view the parade for free. For more information, visit www.atca.info/nebuta_en.