Japanese festivals are known for their vivaciousness, high levels of energy, and kaleidoscope of colours. Matsuri, Japan’s traditional festivals, occur four times a year, in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. As a result, it does not matter when time of year you visit Japan, as long as you plan ahead, you will always be able to participate in a traditional Japanese event.
The origins of each festival are unique, whether they are rooted in mythology or historical events. The Nebuta Festival, celebrated in Aomori, the Kanto Festival, held in Akita, and the Tanabata Festival, hosted in Sendai, are the three festivals we’ll be discussing in this piece. Northeastern Japan is home to the prefecture of Tohoku. Tohoku is home to three major celebrations, collectively known as the Three Great Festivals of Tohoku. It is mandatory to participate in the summer festival tours.
Kanto Matsuri, an annual event held in Akita.
Every year, from the third to the seventh of August, the city of Akita hosts the Kanto Festival. Since the middle of the Edo era, hundreds of lanterns have been used to mark this occasion. People at this strange event will be seen lugging about lit-up bamboo poles that resemble ears of rice. The Japanese term for these bamboo poles is kanto. The ritual is performed for two reasons: to drive away evil spirits and to pray for bountiful crops in the next year.
The Nebuta Festival (of Aomori)
The city of Aomori becomes a lively and dramatic backdrop during the annual Nebuta Festival, held every year from August 2-7. No one seems to know the origin of the yearly festival, which features a parade of giant lanterns, although it has taken place here since the dawn of recorded history. The Tanabata celebration is said to have inspired the use of flutes and taiko drums in Shinto rites, while it is possible that a military commander during the Heian Period loved using such instruments to annoy his enemies.
This matsuri has roots in both classical Chinese rites and conventional Japanese customs. The ordinary people started using lanterns as soon as they had access to paper, bamboo, and candles. These lanterns grew in greater every year until they resembled the floats we now call Nebuta.
Tanabata Festival in Sendai, Japan
Those interested in attending the colourful matsuri held in honour of this tradition must go to Sendai. Despite being enjoyed all around Japan, the Tanabata Festival is best experienced in Sendai. Tanabata, the seventh of July, is a Japanese national holiday. The dates for the event in Sendai, however, are August 6th through the 8th.
Date Masamune was crowned the first king of the Sendai kingdom at the turn of the 17th century, and his ascension to the throne has been celebrated in this way ever since. The sad narrative of two star-crossed lovers who were destined by the gods to spend eternity apart from one another is told in the ancient Chinese-inspired Japanese folktale Tanabata. In Japan, the Tanabata legend has been told from one generation to the next. The story is said to have been the impetus for the party.
Visit the Ichibancho and Chuo retail arcades, located just outside the JR Sendai Station, for the greatest views of the decorations. Towards the end of the Ichibancho business area, you’ll find Shimin Hiroba Square and Kotodai Park, both of which are often the scene of lively gatherings and performances.