Akita’s traditional festival, known as the Akita Kanto Matsuri, fills the night with light and is held in early August each year. This summer festival is a significant event in the region, as it is celebrated to pray for a good harvest of the five grains: wheat, rice, beans, foxtail millet, and Chinese millet. The festival is believed to have originated in the 17th century and has become one of the three main festivals in the northern region of Tohoku.
The Akita Kanto Matsuri is a visually stunning event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the region. One of the highlights of the festival is the 46 paper lanterns that are beautifully lit by candles on floats. These floats, adorned with lanterns, are paraded through the town by young people wearing traditional festival garb. The participants use only their hips, shoulders, or foreheads to hoist up twelve-meter-high bamboo poles decorated with lanterns and shreds of paper. The lanterns are securely attached to the poles using bamboo sticks.
As the procession makes its way through the town, the sound of flutes and drums fills the air, creating a lively and festive atmosphere. The participants shout with enthusiasm, ensuring that the light in the lanterns does not go out. It is a sight to behold as the glowing lanterns illuminate the night sky, creating a mesmerizing display of light and color.
The purpose of hoisting up the bamboo poles is not only for visual appeal but also to chase away evil spirits. It is believed that by lifting the heavy poles, the participants drive away the negative energies and create a space for positive blessings. The poles themselves are symbolic, shaped like the ears of rice plants, representing prayers for a bountiful harvest. The weight of the poles can reach up to 50 kilograms, adding to the physical challenge and significance of the ritual.
The Akita Kanto Matsuri is not just a spectator event; visitors have the opportunity to actively participate and experience the festival firsthand. After the main performance, there is a short talk session led by the performers, where they explain the intricacies of managing the poles. Visitors can also pose for photos and try hoisting one of the bamboo poles themselves, immersing themselves in the traditional practices and customs of the festival.
In addition to the main procession, the festival also offers various other attractions and activities. Food stalls line the streets, offering a wide range of local delicacies and traditional festival foods. Visitors can indulge in delicious street food such as yakitori (grilled skewered chicken), takoyaki (octopus balls), and taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste). The festival also features traditional music and dance performances, showcasing the vibrant cultural heritage of the region.
To fully enjoy the Akita Kanto Matsuri, it is recommended to visit Akita City, which is easily accessible by train and bus from neighboring areas and cities in the region. The festival takes place between Nichomebashi Bridge and the Sanno Jujiro Crossroads. Nichomebashi Bridge is just a ten-minute walk from Akita Station, which can be reached from Tokyo by the JR Akita Shinkansen.
The Akita Kanto Matsuri is not only a celebration of the region’s agricultural heritage but also a testament to the resilience and spirit of the people. The festival has continued to thrive and evolve over the centuries, adapting to the changing times while keeping its traditions alive. It is a time for the community to come together, to celebrate, and to express gratitude for the bountiful harvest and blessings bestowed upon them.
As with many events and festivals around the world, the Akita Kanto Matsuri may be subject to changes and modifications due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to check the official website for the latest information and updates regarding the festival schedule and guidelines.
In conclusion, the Akita Kanto Matsuri is a remarkable traditional festival that showcases the cultural heritage and agricultural traditions of the Akita region. With its stunning display of illuminated lanterns, lively processions, and vibrant atmosphere, the festival is a must-see for anyone interested in experiencing the rich cultural tapestry of japan. Whether it’s participating in the pole-lifting ritual, savoring delicious street food, or enjoying traditional music and dance performances, the Akita Kanto Matsuri offers a unique and immersive cultural experience that will leave visitors with lasting memories.
Address And Maps Location:
Kanto-odori, Akita-shi, Akita-ken