Sendai Tanabata Festival - the Most Famous Star Festival in Japan!
Aomori prefecture has some areas where the “Nebuta Matsuri” take place. “Aomori Nebuta”, “Hirosaki Neputa”, “Hirakawa Neputa Matsuri”, “Hachinohe Sansha Taisai“, “Kuroishi Neputa festival”, and “Goshogawara Tachineputa” are especially famous festivals in the northern part of Honshu. (We generally call the floats nebuta, but in Hirosaki, Hirakawa, and Goshogawara they call it neputa.) People say that “Goshogawara Tachineputa” has the most impressive neputa floats out of the four. And in this article, I am going to tell you more about this festival.
The Goshogawara Tachineputa festival takes place from 4th to 8th of August every year. About 15 neputa floats parade near the Goshogawara Station every evening during the festival. The sizes of the 15 neputa are large, medium, and small. The largest neputa floats will impress you for sure. They are not just large, I should say they are enormous!
The festival has 3 enormous neputa. They weigh 19 tons and are 23m height, which is as tall as a 7-story building. The neputa floats including medium and small ones parade with many participants – “Haneto” playing Ohayashi (traditional music with flutes, small Japanese drums, and small cymbals.) Haneto and visitors chant “Yattemare! Yattemare!” with the rhythm of Ohayashi. The enormously big neputa floats during the parade and the energetic atmosphere will definitely create unforgettable memories!
“Yattemare” is an Aomori dialect word and originally comes from “Yatteshimae” in standard Japanese, which means “Beat them!” A long time ago, this festival was a “Kenka (Fighting) Nebuta” festival. The participants threw stones at other’s neputa attacking them. That’s why the phrase “Yattemare” is still in use, and Ohayashi also has special melodies – “Kenka bayashi.”
People believe that Nebuta Festival that represents Aomori prefecture originally came from a Chinese event called -「中元」 “Chu-gen”. Chu-gen means July 15th of the lunar calendar. Nebuta is a fire festival that took place centering around the Tsugaru region over 400 years ago.
Goshogawara town is a part of the Tsugaru region, and nowadays locals call its neputa floats “Tachineputa”. According to the records, the time when the enormous neputa came out for the first time in Goshogawara city is around 1907. At that time, there were wealthy merchants such as “Nunokaya” and famous landowners in the prefecture. They competed in height of the enormous neputa floats as it was a symbol of their wealth. In those times they reached heights of about 18 to 21.6 meters. Those neputa were high enough to see from the neighboring villages.
However, in the Taisho period, the size of the neputa floats got smaller and smaller because of the introduction of electric wires in the town. In addition, the city burned down in two big fires after the war. Due to the fires, the original designs and photos of the neputa were gone, and enormous neputa floats have disappeared.
Luckily, the residents found the designs from those days in 1993 and restored neputa floats of 7m heigh in 1994. In 1996, the citizens who missed neputa floats created a group to restore these lanterns. To enjoy the festival with neputa lanterns, they buried the electric wires on the way of neputa parade. At last, “Goshogawara Tachineputa” made an enchanting comeback in 1998, which was the first time in 80 years!
There are only 3 people who can make neputa. They are Goshogawara’s city workers. These people make a new enormous neputa every year. And the people use one neputa at the festivals only for 3 years. When a new neputa is completed, the used one is replaced with the new one. They disassemble old neputa floats unlike at other neputa festivals when many of them die in a fight. A neputa maker is responsible for 1 neputa alone. They choose the theme, draw the rough design, constitute the framework, and assemble it.
The new theme is announced every fall. It’s of great interest to the citizens. The mayor has a press conference to make the announcement about the new floats. When the new year starts, they also start to make the neputa in the workshop of Tachineputa no Yakata (A facility where visitors can enjoy a festival atmosphere year round with large Tachineputa festival floats). Usually, they finish their works by July.
The three makers have their original style in splendor, vibrancy, boldness, and so on. You can admire their works in Tachineputa no Yakata throughout the year. That encourages them to make better neputa than previous ones. Besides, it takes about 10 months to complete one neputa.
At the festival, the neputa floats start parading at 19:00 and it takes about 2 hours to complete the course. Before the festival starts, around 18:00, they come out from Tachineputa no Yakata. That scene is extremely dynamic and worth seeing. Then, all neputa wait in line to start the parade in front of the Goshogawara station. I recommend you see them at that stage as well. An important thing to remember is that the day when all 3 enormous neputa join the parade is only the last day of the festival (August 8th).
You can get paid seats near the starting point if you would like to see both the neputa and ohayashi closely. There are some places selling reservations for the paid seats. Goshogawara chamber of commerce & industry and Machinaka Goshogawara company are the main sellers of the tickets. Goshogawara chamber of commerce & industry sells it for 2500 Yen, and Machinaka Goshogawara company sells it for 3000 Yen for a seat.
In Goshogawara, there is another big event before the Tachineputa festival. It is Goshogawara Fireworks Display Festival that takes place on August 3rd every year, which is the day before the first day of the Tachineputa festival. It starts from 19:30 and about 5000 fireworks are set off from “Hokuto Ground” at the Iwakigawa riverside. You can see the splendid show where fireworks, music, and water are combined. For example, big and small “Star Mine” fireworks (a rapid-fire series of blasts) are synchronized with music, and when the 300m-long Wide Star Mines are launched the water curtain is illuminated at the end of the festival. So, I suggest you arrive at Goshogawara a day before the Tachineputa Festival.
Aomori prefecture is famous for apples. There are many kinds of apples, for example, Fuji, Jona Gold, Kogyoku, and so on. Goshogawara has a very rare apple sort – “Akai Ringo”, which means “red apple”. Of course, many apples are red, but have you ever seen apples that even have a red flesh? Akai Ringo has not only red peel but also red flesh which is amazing. Unfortunately, the harvest season starts in September, so you won’t be able to try one in August. However, they process Akai Ringo into juice, jam, apple pies, and even noodles! Why don’t you try some of it? Image courtesy of あおもりくま,Aomorikuma
The city also produces “Yamato shijimi.” Shijimi means freshwater clams. The city is one of the largest producers of Yamato shijimi in Japan. Lake Jusanko in Goshogawara is especially famous for “Yamato-shijimi”. You can do Yamato shijimi clam digging there from the end of April to the beginning of October. In addition, you can taste Yamato shijmi in energy drinks, Miso (Fermented soybean paste), and Tsukudani (Preserved food boiled in soy sauce mixed with sugar.) What I would like to recommend personally is Ramen with Yamato shijimi. It has the shijimi soup base and flavored with salt. So, its flavor is simple but rich at the same time. It tastes great indeed!
Image courtesy of Aiko99ann
There are some nice sightseeing spots in Goshogawara city. Above all, you should visit Tachineputa no Yakata. Whenever you visit there, you can see the enormous neputa floats. Many panels and photos related to the festival are there as well. You can also observe the process of crafting the neputa lantern floats and even have the experience of pasting paper on it. There is a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a souvenir store in the facility!
Another place I recommend is the Dazai Osamu memorial hall “Shayoukan”. Dazai Osamu (his real name is Tsushima Shuji) was one of the most famous writers in Japan. He was born in Goshogawara city. His father, Tsushima Genemon, was a big landowner and built a luxurious house, Shoyokan in 1907. After the war, the Tsushima family relinquished the house, and it became a sightseeing spot because it had been used as a hotel named Shoyokan since 1950.
Many fans of Dazai Osamu visited this establishment. In March 1996, Kaneki town purchased it and restored to show how life was back then and it ended up as a memorial hall. It has a precious architecture, made of wood in the Meiji period, and designated as an important national property of Japan. Dazai Osumu spent his childhood in this house. His belongings after his death and the works he wrote are exhibited in the material room used as a warehouse back in the old days.
Dates: August 4th ~ 8th every year
Place: Central district of Goshogawara city. Goshogawara Station
Address: Omachi, Goshogawara, Aomori Prefecture
International Reception and Info: Goshogawara City Tourist Association
Official website: http://www.okutsugaru.com/e/shichoubetu/goshogawara/tachineputa.html
Goshogawara City sightseeing site: http://www.city.goshogawara.lg.jp/tourism/en/view/tachineputa.html
Get off at JR Goshigawara Station and walk about 5 minutes to the west from the station. Parking lots are available.
The traffic restrictions are imposed on the day, so public transportation is preferable. Anyone who wears an official costume can join the festival. If you have any questions about Tachineputa, please contact Goshogawara City Tourist Association.
I hope you have made an impression of how fascinating Tachineputa is. “Aomori Nebuta” and “Hirosaki Neputa” are also held at the beginning of August, the same as Goshogawara. You suggest you see all of them at the same time if you like. I am sure that you will enjoy the charming lanterns of the neputa floats in the evening and feel the energy of this outstanding festival!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you want to see and join this festival. Though there are many floating lantern festivals in Japan, the Tohoku region can boast one of the most famous Nebuta festivals. I also recommend you visit an Aomori Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori City in August. This Festival is one of the three most significant festivals in the Tohoku region and is known to be one of the most popular and colorful festivals in Japan! I am sure you will appreciate watching a gigantic handmade Nebutas during this festival. And of course, don’t miss a chance to join the parade and dance with the crowd!
For more information on Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, please check the link below!
Image courtesy of Yuya Saito
Nebuta (or Neputa depending on the area) is a huge traditional Japanese paper lantern that can be of various shapes. This is an essential attribute of numerous Nebuta Festivals in Japan and especially in the Tohoku region. It is hard to imagine a Japanese festivity without these colorful lanterns resembling demons from Japanese mythology, brave Samurai, or beautiful Japanese ladies. In addition, the energetic atmosphere during Nebuta festivals will never make you feel bored! The following article picked up 11 most spectacular and unique Nebuta Matsuri in Japan! Please have a look!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you want to visit this great festival. Lantern festivals in Japan are very popular, and you can see it in any season. If you would like to know more about other lantern festivals in Japan, enjoy its mystical atmosphere, and admire a glowing night in Japan, please click on the link below and you will find an article on the best 13 lantern festivals in Japan!
A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel themselves a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!