Aomori nebuta festival
What is Aomori nebuta
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (青森ねぶた祭り, “Aomori Nebuta Festival” or simply “Aomori Nebuta”) is a Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, Japan in early August. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country’s nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tōhoku region. It was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1980, and as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan by the Ministry of the Environment in 1996.
The most widely known explanation is that the festival originated from the flutes and taiko, future shōgun Sakanoue no Tamuramaro used to attract the attention of the enemy during a battle in Mutsu Province. The Tamuramaro Shō (Tamuramaro Prize) was created around this explanation in 1962 to be awarded to the festival’s best group participant (later renamed to the Nebuta Taishō). However, it is unlikely that Tamuramaro actually conducted military expeditions in what is currently Aomori Prefecture, so this explanation is considered to be a legend. The festival most likely evolved out of traditional Shinto ceremonies like Tanabata.
During the Edo period and Meiji period, the act of carrying a large lantern float like the Nebuta was often banned by the government due to the potential fire hazard it posed to the surroundings. This ban was also put into place during World War II, but was lifted in 1944 as an effort to boost morale during the waning years of the war. Corporations began to sponsor the creation of the floats in the post-war period, and a strong emphasis was placed in expanding local tourism through the festival. The light source within the float was originally a candle, but was eventually changed to incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs powered by portable generators and rechargeable batteries. The frame of the floats also changed from bamboo to wire, lowering the risk of fire considerably. Nebuta floats also grew larger with time, but urban obstacles such as footbridges, power lines, and traffic lights only allowed their width to increase significantly.
The floats often feature images of kabuki actors, various types of gods, and historical or mythical figures from Japanese or Chinese culture, but modern Nebuta floats may also feature famous regional personalities or characters from television shows (especially the annual historical “Taiga drama” aired by NHK).