The streets of Aomori City come alive in summer with gigantic, vibrantly-colored floats depicting mythical legends and gods during the Nebuta Festival. It’s held annually in Aomori Prefecture‘s capital city Aug. 2 to 7 and is one of the most recognizable festivals in Japan.
The elaborate lantern floats, vividly illuminated from inside, are paraded around each day accompanied by dancers and taiko drums bellowing out thunderous tunes. They leer and sweep over the cheering crowds as teams of volunteers push the floats through the 3-kilometer circuit.
The floats’ design and construction can take an entire year to complete, consisting of dyed washi paper meticulously draped over bamboo or wire frames. Reaching up to five meters tall and nine meters wide, they depict dynamic scenes of Japanese deities and famous mythological and historical figures, along with some more modern characters. Hundreds of light bulbs are strung beneath the dyed paper, bringing them to life dramatically.
Haneto dancers follow behind the floats, cheering and throwing bells at eager audience members while performing their backward skipping dance. The sum of these parts is the most infectiously energetic festival atmosphere in the country.
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