Aomori Nebuta Festival: Embrace the Euphoria of Dancing Lanterns!

Aomori nebuta

Have you ever witnessed the mesmerizing Nebuta Festival, where radiant lanterns gracefully dance across the summer night sky? In this blog post, we’ll explore the captivating charm of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, taking a closer look at its origin, history, and the three most popular festivals associated with it. Let’s embark on this exciting journey together!

Nebuta Matsuri Festival Short Introduction Video💕

Origin and History of Nebuta Festival

The Nebuta Matsuri is a vibrant festival celebrated mainly in different parts of Aomori Prefecture, featuring colossal illuminated lanterns known as “Nebuta” paraded on floats. Its origins trace back to the Nara Period’s Tanabata Festival (710-794) and hold significant cultural importance as one of the region’s most anticipated annual events.

Various theories surround the origin of the term “nebuta,” but the prevailing belief links it to the phrase “to wash away sleepiness” or “nemuta nagashi” in the local dialect, aiming to combat fatigue during the busy farming season.

Every year, countless visitors from Japan and around the world gather in Aomori to marvel at the glittering Nebuta and the spirited “haneto” dancers moving to the enchanting musical accompaniment.

The three most popular Nebuta Festivals

There are more than 40 Nebuta festivals held in Aomori Prefecture alone, and here we introduce three particularly famous and tourist-oriented festivals. (The difference between Nebuta and Neputa is the regional accent.)

Aomori Nebuta 青森ねぶた: A Fiery Fiesta

Aomori nebuta


Aomori Nebuta Festival ranks among Tohoku’s top three festivals, along with Sendai’s Tanabata Festival and Akita’s Kanto Festival, drawing over 2 million people annually. Held in Aomori City for six days from August 2 to 7, this dynamic festival captivates tourists from all walks of life.

The main attraction of Aomori Nebuta is the presence of large doll-shaped lanterns, aptly called doll nebuta. Unlike lanterns that float on rivers and seas, the “dashi-toro” lanterns featured here are three-dimensional, polyhedron-shaped, and truly impressive.

These lanterns, towering up to 5 meters in height, parade through the town, surrounded by lively “haneto” dancers who invite tourists to join in the festivities. The Aomori Nebuta is an unparalleled spectacle, immersing visitors in an atmosphere of electrifying excitement.

If you plan to attend the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, be sure to check the parade route in advance. And even if you miss the festival, don’t worry; you can still explore its allure at the Nebuta Museum WA RASSE.


Hirosaki Neputa 弘前ねぷた: A Magnificent Fusion of Tradition and Art

Hirosaki Neputa

From August 1 to 7, the Hirosaki Neputa Festival unfolds its beauty and cultural richness. Most of the neputas featured in this festival are flat and fan-shaped, referred to as fan neputa. On the front side, you’ll find “kagami-e” (mirror pictures) portraying warriors from “Sangokushi” and “Suikoden,” while the back showcases “miyoshi-e” (farewell pictures) depicting beautiful women and ink paintings.

A pre-parade performance featuring a grand Japanese drum performance called Tsugaru joppari odaiko 津軽情っ張り大太鼓 is a sight to behold, boasting awe-inspiring substandard size and skill. The performance takes place at Sakura Odori 桜大通り.

tsugaru joppari daiko

To catch all the action at the Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri, be sure to check the parade route ahead of time. In case you miss the festival, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Tsugaru-han Neputa-mura Village.


Goshogawara Tachi Neputa 五所川原 立佞武多: Reaching New Heights

Goshogawara neputa

From August 4 to 8, Goshogawara Tachineputa takes the stage, boasting gigantic lanterns towering over 20 meters and weighing 16 tons. Distinct from both Hirosaki City’s fan neputa and Aomori City’s ningyo neputa, this festival follows the style of the giant neputa from the late Meiji period (1868-1912).

During the procession, dozens of pullers attach ropes to the sides of the float, pulling it in two lines, accompanied by the resounding beats of a big drum (chuko-daiko) leading the way. Haneto dancers follow, chanting “yatte-mare,” “yatte-mare,” and other invigorating phrases.

For those eager to join the Goshogawara Neputa Matsuri, make sure to review the parade route (website in Japanese only) in advance. And if you miss the festival, make a stop at the Tachineputa Museum (立佞武多の館)


Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Aomori

Beyond the Nebuta Festivals, Aomori offers a plethora of captivating tourist spots to explore.

Rice Paddy Art in Inakadate Village

inakadate art tanbo art, rice paddy art

Shot by Kazue, Your Japanese Guide in August 2022

This fascinating project utilizes rice fields as canvases to create giant images and letters using different colored rice plants. The Rice Paddy Art becomes a hot topic every year on social media and is well worth a visit. You can find two venues: one in the rice paddies on the east side of the Inakadate Village Office Building and the other at the Roadside Station Inakadate, Yayoi no Sato. Here is the official website of Inakadate Rice paddy Art (in Japanese only).


Hirosaki neputa museum

You can experience playing Japanese drums at Tsugaruhan Neputa village 津軽藩ねぷた村

The Aomori Nebuta Festival is an enchanting portrayal of Japan’s vibrant summer festivals, where dancing lanterns and a vibrant celebration of culture take center stage. The event’s popularity transcends borders, attracting international visitors who can even partake in the festivities as “haneto” dancers. Besides the festival, Aomori offers numerous delightful tourist spots and delectable local cuisine. For those seeking a memorable summer adventure, the Aomori Nebuta Festival should be at the top of your travel itinerary!


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