Experience yourself that exciting, much-talked–about “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri”
Come August, the entire city of Aomori flares up with festive excitements.
“Aomori Nebuta Matsuri” features colorful floats (dashi) with huge, fancy doll lanterns parade amid the town.
Around the floats circle “Haneto”, the dancers,
who boost the festival enthusiastically dancing to the accompaniment of music and heated shouts and screams.
The local folks devote an immeasurable level of enthusiasm into this once-a-year festival.
One of the three major festivals of Tōhoku, “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri” attracts over two million tourists at home and from abroad.
Though there are similar festivals in Aomori, “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri” is by all means the grandest and liveliest of all.
This festival is such a fun watching but equally pleasant joining in as Haneto to dance in the parade.
A festival that paints the sadly brief summer of Tōhoku colorful and exciting, “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri” is a must for you to take part in.
How “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri” came about
Not much is known of the origin of “Aomori Nebuta Matsuri”.
It is generally believed to be a unique blending/ transfiguring of the lantern-floating of China’s of Tanabata Festa or certain “Nemuri (sleep) floating Festa” of floating ‘sleep’ in some shape or another.
The term Nebuta is said to have corrupted from the word Nemuri meaning sleep.
Nebuta, by the way, means the float, or Dashi, itself used in the festival.
Nebuta built by the professional artisan called Nebuta-shi
Visibly an extra spirit-stirring structure, Nebuta is actually made of wires and washi, or traditional Japanese paper,
the former the basic framework of the doll and the latter the exterior covering – all done by hand.
Nebutas are built anew each year and dismantled immediately after the festival.
The professional artisan commissioned to build Nebuta is called Nebuta-shi.
He is responsible for every stage of the work i.e. drawing the blueprint, both structure and coloring of Nebuta, etc.
Nebuta comes in three types: Giant Nebuta, Regional Nebuta and Kids Nebuta.
Giant Nebuta is mainly sponsored by industries and costs as much as 20 million yens each.
Neighborhood associations traditionally build Regional and Kids Nebutas on donation.
Let’s enjoy magnificent, spectacular Nebuta
Brilliant Negutas floating at dusk.
All twenty of Giant Nebutas differ in motifs and wishes for which they are built.
Let’s go see the whole display of Aomori Nebutas.
Nebuta Matsuri is scheduled each year as follows（※1）:
August 2 - 6: 19:00 〜21:00
August 7 : 13:00〜15:00 (daytime)
19:00 〜21:00 (fireworks Show・on the sea)
Due to restrictions due to Corvid-19, the schedules for 2021 are rearranged as follows:
・August 2 ・3: 6: 19:00 〜21:00
・August 4〜6: 18:50〜21:00
・August 7: 13:00〜15:00（daytime）
(Fireworks Show on the sea is cancelled.)
Nebuta Matsuri is crowded with spectators.
The parade starts at 19:00; you are advised to be near the parade course half an hour ahead of time.
The parade procession is set on the roadway in the center of Aomori City 10-minute walk from Aomori Station.
Outlined with Aomori Station in mind, the nearest section of the procession is the point where Shinmachi Dōri,
stretching from Aomori Station, intersects with Hakkō Dōri, roughly a total of 300 meters east of the station.
The parade runs 1.2 kilometers on Shinmachi Dōri, turns south on Heiwa Kōen Dōri and proceeds on for 0.2 kilometers.
It goes farther on 1.3 kilometers west on Route 4 and turns right, facing Aomori Prefectural Building,
back to Hakkō Dōri and runs an extra one round.
You can check on the details of the parade procession in either the festival-related pamphlet available at the tourist office near the station or the official site of Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (https://www.Nebuta.jp/).
To have the best of times at Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, you should perhaps have your seat reserved in advance.
Paid reserved seats are placed along Route 4 from Hakkō Dōri stretching from Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center to Heiwa Kōen Dōri.
Seats for groups of over 10 or more are up for reservation effective mid-April; seats for individual spectators are up for sale effective early July.
The fee is ¥3,500 per person for both categories.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri has an official site with precise information on reservation and sale.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Official Site with information on the sale of reserved seats:
Once the festival starts, some 20 Nebutas set out for parading in a fixed order.
As it darkens, colorfully decorated Nebutas glow brighter amid the lanterns.
Nebutas drift to and fro to the tune of Ohayashi, energetically drawn right to left, up and down, by groups of Hikites, the handlers.
Oftentimes, the handlers dare vigorously turn the float (Dashi), one whole round.
Nebuta is conceived out of myths and historical motifs in Japan and China.
Nebutas parading in a given year are all unique to that year alone and none sharing identical motifs.
One crucial key point in evaluating Nebuta floats (Dashi) is to see how vividly and lively such motifs are expressed.
Expression tends to be vigorous and emphatic if built on battle for its motif; more delicacy expressed if conceived on tranquility for a motif.
Nebutas alter the modes of expression dependent on diverse themes.
You are advised to “see them off” or take a look at them “from behind”.
The backside of each Nebuta often adopts a motif different from that of the front.
Take a good look at each Nebuta from behind for an extra fun of enjoying Nebuta Matsuri.
Why not mingle with local Hanetos (dancers) to enjoy Aomori Nebuta Matsuri?
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri welcomes you to be a Haneto join Aomori Nebuta Matsuri in your own fashion.
The dance is nothing fancy; you just hop and jump. That’s all there is to it.
Do hop in!
Now that you in Aomori, enjoy every second of your time.
Be a Haneto yourself and help boost Aomori Nebuta Matsuri.
You can get hold of the Haneto costumes at the department stores or other shops in town.
You can even rent the ones that fit you.
A set of costumes may be ¥7,000 if you purchase them and ¥3,000 if rental, mostly including fees to wear them.
There are two points to remember if you join the festival as Haneto:
One, you are to wear the formal Haneto costumes with the authentic Hanagasa hat.
Two, you are to join the Nebuta party lining up for the parade prior to the start of Nebuta Parade.
No advance registration or reception is required.
Nebutas line up at intervals on the procession course.
Proceed to Shinmachi Dōri or Route 4. (*3)
Nebuta floats have own groups of Hikite (handlers) and Hayashikata (chanters) and the space for Haneto is split up with ropes.
You need not ask anyone; you just step in the space.
As procession starts, you are to mingle in the crowds, hop and jump like everybody else to enjoy festive excitements.
As a countermeasure for the Covid-19 pandemic,
participants in the festival as Haneto this year are required to register in advance, tentatively early July, 2021.
Details will be made public via the official site of Aomori Nebuta Matsuri. （https://www.nebuta.jp/）
Unlike in the past years, all Nebuta floats assemble at and start from a difference point this year: the seaside of Yanagimachi Dōri.
Those of you who wish to join as Haneto are NOT to go directly to the assembly point but to the point duly indicated after registration.
Dig further into Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
You can enjoy Nebuta in various other ways than just taking part in the festival proper.
Tracing Nebuta in history is fun; so is a comprehensive study of the legendary Nebutas.
Nebutas just about to set out to parade can be quite an attraction to look at.
Here’s “Nebuta Museum Wa-Rasse”, a minute walk from Aomori Station.
It’s a facility that introduces the history of Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and displays giant Nebutas used in the past festivals.
by the beach 8 minutes away from Aomori Station a row of cottages have in store the whole set of Nebuta floats to be used in this year's Aomori Nebuta Matsuri proper.
© Incorporated Association Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization
You can learn a lot about the festival in advance; you can even have the Nebuta Guide explain to you,
free of charge, all about Aomori Nebuta Matsuri.
*Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and a series of countermeasures taken thereafter, guide services at Rasseland are temporarily suspended.
You can tour the site during the period July 1 through August 6; Nebuta Guide 10:00 ～15:00.
*You are not allowed to go inside the facility during 12:00～13:00 when the creator is in recess.
If you care to learn more about Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, you are welcome to visit Nebuta Museum Wa-Rasse or Nebuta Rasseland.