Next week is the beginning of August, and the start of some of the most amazing festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending here in Japan: the three great festivals of the Tohoku region, collectively known as the “Tohoku Sandai Matsuri”.
Three years ago, I took a road trip in August to see these three festivals, along with other sightseeing spots in the Tohoku region. It was an epic, unforgettable trip, and one I wish I could do again… this time with my postcards in tow! I did actually buy several on the trip, but I never thought to take pictures with them at that time. Ah, regret.
Anyway, let me talk about each festival in turn. We’ll start with Akita!
It’s really, really difficult to choose a favorite festival, but if you twist my arm I’ll say that the Kanto Matsuri was the most amazing I’ve ever seen. In this festival, men balance huge, heavy poles with lanterns on the end (called Kanto, hence the name) on their hands, heads, shoulders, or hips. These poles are VERY heavy, and yet every minute the man is able to balance, they add a longer and longer section to the end, to where the giant poles (which resemble heads of rice apparently, although they look like the sails of ships to me) tower and lean over the men and the crowd alike.
These lanterns are real, so if a pole is dropped, the lanterns must be re-lit one by one. It is a point of pride that the men don’t drop, although you can hear from the gasps of the crowd that it does happen. This festival gets you mentally invested in the men, cheering them on and commiserating a fall together. Even though the audience is only watching, you still feel a part of the festival directly, and the theatrics are the most challenging I’ve ever seen. The Kanto Matsuri has indeed earned its place as top three of Kanto!
Towering over the crowds are the great Kanto of the Kanto Matsuri
Examples of a head balance
A hip balance
And a shoulder balance
Relighting the lanterns after a drop
The Kanto Matsuri is held August 3rd to 6th in Akita City, Akita Prefecture.
Next up is Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, so look for that post!