We traveled from Hachinohe to Aomori City for last night of the Nebuta Festival (青森ねぶた祭り), which is held over 3 nights. We could only find a hotel at Asamushi Onsen, a seaside hotsprings resort – about 30 minutes by train from Aomori City.
The Nebuta Festival has been held for several hundred years and is the most popular of the big three Tohoku festivals. The Nebuta is a float with kabuki-like figures made of washi (Japanese paper) on a wire frame. Each Nebuta weights about 2 tons and is pushed by manpower only. 20 Nebuta(s) are designed and created every year at a cost of about $200k each.
The Nebuta is pushed through the streets of central Aomori in a 2 mile circular course along with a taiko drum and flute crew followed by dancers, haneto, that chant “rasse-ra rasse-ra rasse- rasse- rasse-ra”. The dance is a simple series of hops. About 60k hanetos participate in the procession every night. Anyone can participate, including us, as long as you are dressed in the traditional haneto costume. A great time, but hoping on the straw sandals was a tad painful. There are impromptu slam dances, where a wide circular area is opened and then people converge while chanting and hoping.
Since winters in the Tohoku region is severe buried in several feet of snow, people of Tohoku seem to truly enjoy their summer festivals. They spend a great deal of effort during the year preparing and practicing for their festival.