Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nebuta Matsuri

Summer in Japan is the time for many festivals. One such festival which takes place in summer is the Nebuta Matsuri. 

This festival is believed to be a combination of Tanabata and O-bon festivals and includes traditional folk events. There are many folklores about the origin of the Nebuta festival. One version says that it originated in a bid to drive away the "demon" of drowsiness or sleepiness, Nemutashi, which was a major hindrance for people in doing their farm work.  Another version goes that the general of today's Aomori region, Sakanoue No Tamuraro, hid his soldiers in gigantic dolls called "Nebuta" and successfully drove his enemies.    

Nebuta floats, in old days known as "Toro" are made of a wooden or bamboo base and covered with paper, coloured with designs and lighted with hundreds of bulbs from the inside.
Most of these floats are made to look like gigantic warriors, true to the traditional purpose of frightening the enemy.
 Some floats are painted with pictures of birds, beasts or mythical creatures.

 The colourful floats are pulled in a parade like procession through the streets with people accompanying them singing and dancing to the tune folk music played with flutes and drums.

In many places these are taken out to the sea and made to float. 

Nowadays various groups participate in the Nebuta parade. Prizes are awarded to the best processional group selected from all participating groups. All participants are required to wear a specific costume and a traditional hat called "Negasa". 

The Nebuta festival is held in early August each year. The Nebuta festival is generally held in Tohoku region in northern Japan, with the Aomori Nebuta festival being the most famous of all. The images on this post are from the Nebuta festival held at Iwaki city's Yotsukura beach in August 2010. The Aomori Nebuta festival is much grander in its festivities and turnout. 

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