"Aomori Nebuta", one of Japanese fire festivals, was designated to one of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties in Japan in 1980. The festival's origin is the combination of "Tanabata festival" introduced from China in Nara period and custom and tradition and events such as escorting of the spirits in Tsugaru area. It has been believed that wide adoption of paper and candles helped to generate the current styles of doll and fan shaped Nebuta floats through lantern making. Kabuki dance-drama and history and myths are major themes of Nebuta. Different face expressions, such as beautiful and elegant, melancholic, and daring and aggressive, are painted on a float and catch people's eyes. Music performers of percussion instruments playing man-sized big drums and flutes and dancers called "Haneto" are surrounded each beautiful and emboldened Nebuta float during the parade. Their invigorating dance and rhythmical shout "Rase-ra, rase-ra" make the festival more exciting. On the 5th night, prizes are awarded to floats, and the first prized float leads the following six prized floats during the final day afternoon parade in Aomori city, and they leave Aomori harbor and are operated Mutsu bay offshore in the night. Fireworks is also held at the finale of festival. You can enjoy the collaboration of Nebuta floats on the sea and fireworks. Nebuta festival, approx. three million visitors from multiple places come to see, is the biggest summer feature in Aomori.
A float looks spectacular, the maximum size is 5 metres in height and 9 metres in width and 7 metres in depth! A float with 600 to 800 lights can move dynamically, sometimes rotating and swelling. Its vigorous movement never make you bored. It takes a year to create a float with almost 300 people. Nebuta float's basic structure is made with wires and Japanese paper. Nebuta artists draw contours with black ink and apply wax to prevent from turbidity and improve transparency. Color painting is the final process. It glows with lights put inside. Then, this looks really artistic.
Nebuta dancer called "Haneto" is also a feature as well as gorgeous "Nebuta" floats. They wear a flower hat and tuck up sleeves with a tasuki string and roll up yukata hems to knees, and dance excitingly to warm up the festival. Anyone can join the festival by being Haneto, even on that day! You can enjoy Nebuta festival as a visitor, but it's much more enjoyable to join it. You can feel the festival by first-hand experience.
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