Aomori Nebuta Festival

ABOUTNebuta Festival

The epitome of Aomori's summer, the Nebuta Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Japan, attracting thousands of visitors.

The main attraction is large, colorful and dramatic human-shaped floats called Nebuta, 9 meters wide, 7 meters deep and 5 meters high, most of them resembling ancient warlords, historical characters and kabuki characters in early days.

These floats parade through the streets of Aomori, with Haneto dancers bouncing down the streets to the exciting music of Nebuta bayashi bands.

Nebuta FestivalTimetable

Route

The festival will take place in the center of Aomori City.
It is a 10-minute walk from JR Aomori Station,
30 minutes by car from Aomori Airport,
and 15 minutes by car from Aomori Chuo IC.

The route is approximately 3.1 kilometers long. Visitors will be able to see the nebutas from the pedestrian walk as the nebutas are paraded down the car lanes.

The origins of Aomori Nebuta Festival

Aomori Nebuta Festival is said to have originated as a variant of the Tanabata Festival, though the authenticity of the story is uncertain.

The Tanabata Festival from China and Tsugaru’s customs and traditional events are said to have united, and when paper, bamboo and candles became commonly available, they are said to have turned into lanterns and eventually into nebutas.

Traditionally nebutas have been created by local councils and paraded every year.

They have been getting larger and more detailed.

Nebuta masters

The creators of large nebutas are called Nebutashi, or nebuta masters.

They are the specialists who decide the basic design, the entire structure and colors of nebutas.

Every year after the Nebuta Festival, the masters start planning the next year’s nebutas, completing the first draft of design during the winter.

Detailed parts like the face, arms and legs are created first, and by May, the entire structure is built in studios with wood and wires.

Light bulbs are then put inside, and the wire structure is covered on the inside with traditional Japanese paper.

Once the paper is pasted to the entire structure, outlines are drawn in black charcoal ink, patterns are drawn with melted candles, and finally colored with paintbrushes and sprays to complete the nebuta.

Nebuta music bands

Nebuta bayashi, or nebuta music bands, consists of drums, flutes and hand cymbals. The drummers set the rhythm, the flute plays the melody, and the cymbals accentuate the music.
The haneto dancers dance and bounce to this music.

Haneto dancers

Dancers in the Nebuta Festival are known as hanetos. They dance and bounce down the street with the nebutas, as people cheer “Rassera, Rassera.”

Anyone can join the dance as long as they wear a haneto costume, which is part of the festival’s appeal.

How to join the dancing crowd as a haneto

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, only a limited number of hanetos will be accepted this year.

Hanetos must wear a haneto costume and a mask and will be permitted to participate only if they feel well on the day of the event, and only if they book in advance.

  1. On your head, wear a hanagasa, a triangular straw hat with colorful artificial flowers.
  2. Wear a strap on your shoulder, that comes in bright colors like red and pink.
  3. Around your waist, wear a shigoki band, and a gagashiko, a tin container for water or alcohol to drink
  4. A simple kimono known as a yukata, white-based
  5. The hem of the kimono should be rolled up to the knee. Underneath, wear a pink or light blue okoshi.
  6. Wear traditional white tabi, or socks with split toes: one part for the big toe and the other part for other toes. Wear zori, traditional sandals with straw strings.
    It is best to bind the sandals to your feet with a cloth called mameshibori so that they do not come off while you are dancing.

How to enjoy the festival as a visitor

There are paid seats along the route. Visitors are welcome to watch the procession from other spots, but they are usually crowded.

Please purchase paid seats in advance. If there are vacancies they will be available for purchase on the day of the event.

If it rains the festival will still go ahead, with nebutas being covered with large vinyl sheets.

Please wear a raincoat in rain and refrain from using an umbrella as it obstructs the view of other visitors.

Measures against COVID-19

Please wear a mask.

Please social-distance.

Make sure to social distance when you stand in a line.

Signing up with a COVID-19 checking app is recommended.

Please refrain from visiting the event if you feel unwell or show any symptoms such as a fever.