The most famous Nebuta Matsuri (“matsuri” means “festival” in English) is in Aomori Prefecture. Aomori Prefecture is about 6 hours away by train and about 18,000 yen one way (currently around 200 USD) from where I live. That is 6 more hours and 18,000 more yen than I had, so, needless to say, I did not go to the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori.
Instead, I went to the local “Neputa Matsuri,” (spelled slightly differently) a mere 20-minute car ride and an afternoon of volunteering away. I was there with a group helping corral young students who were marching and playing cymbals in the parade. If we are being honest, the adult-to-kid ratio was pretty high and my Japanese-to-English-ability ratio is pretty low, so there wasn’t much for me to do besides enjoy the festival. And I definitely did! Lots of delicious stall food was consumed and lots of pictures were taken.
Neputa (Nebuta) Festival
Nebuta Festivals are best known for their giant lantern floats. The elaborately decorated floats were impressive during the day, but at night, when they were lit up, they were truly something to behold. Festival participants pulled the floats down the street, accompanied by dancers and taiko drummers. I was told that one of the most coveted positions was to be one of the women sitting on and playing a taiko drum on one of the floats. The climax of the festival was right before the end — everyone brought the floats to the middle of a big intersection and danced to the sound of drums, cymbals, and flutes.