The Tohoku Region (Northeastern region) of Japan has 3 extremely popular festivals in summer. They are the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the Kanto Festival in Akita, and the Tanabata Festival in Sendai.
These festivals are spectacular in their own right and bring thousands of people from outside and inside Japan. If you are anything like me, you want to experience a festival, but are not necessarily keen on the huge, huge crowds you might want to check out these smaller festivals that also happen in the Tohoku region!
HIROSAKI NEPUTA FESTIVAL
The one in Aomori is the famous one, but there are 2 other major festivals where you can see the nebuta (giant floats made of paper that are lit up inside like a lantern)
The festival in Hirosaki city, Aomori runs from August 1st to 7th. It starts from 19:00 from the main station and goes around the town. There are about 80 floats in the festival. The Aomori festival is more fast-paced and full of energy, whereas the Hirosaki procession is more subdued, the floats move at a slower pace and there is Japanese flute music.
GOSHOGAWARA TACHI-NEPUTA FESTIVAL
This nebuta festival happens in Goshogawara city, Aomori. The floats are a bit different than the Aomori and Hirosaki festival because they go vertical. They can be over 20 meters tall. The festivities start at 19:00 and end at 21:00.
MORIOKA SANSA ODORI
This festival in Morioka city, Iwate is mainly dancing and a huge parade. It goes from August 1st to the 4th. There are performances happening from 1 pm to 4 pm and then the main parade and dancing at 6 pm to 9 pm.
This festival won the Guinness World Record for longest drum parade in the world.
MORIOKA FUNEKKO NAGASHI
This festival’s main event is setting 15 boats on fire causing about 3,000 fireworks go off. It is held on the banks of the Kitakami River, a 7-minute walk from Senbokucho Station in Morioka city, Iwate. There is a big bridge, Meiji Bridge, northeast of the station, that is the area where you can see the boats. It takes place on August 16th after 4 pm.
Takes place Friday and Saturday of the first weekend of August. Walk to route 13 from Fukushima Station. The waraji is a huge straw sandal. Fukushima boasts having the largest one. You will get to see it being paraded around if you come out to see this festival. The sandal comes down from Mt. Shinobu to parade around the town and bless those who are traveling.
The first day starts from 17:30, when the waraji comes down from the mountain. Dance and performances continue until 21:30. On the second day festivities start from 10 am and go until 21:00.