When and where?
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is held every year in from August 2 to 7 in Aomori city (access to the route of the parade from Aomori station). The floats are carried in the evening from August 2 to 6, and during the daytime on the 7 followed by a firework show at night.
Watching the parade
Looking at the floats is the main activity. Pay attention to the particularity of each figure. These giants (typically 5 meters high and 9 meters in width) are for the most part inspired by ancient Chinese legends, Japanese kabuki (traditional Japanese theater) and myths. Entrance to the festival is free, as it is held in the city, but there are some reserved seats available for 2600 yen.
So impressive are the floats and the craft behind their making, and so large is the scale of this event that it was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the Japanese government in 1980.
A float by JR Japan. Companies and community groups alike join in the organization.
A thing to note is that the floats will change depending on the day you attend. On August 2 and 3, you can see children's floats, which are smaller in size, alongside the regular larger floats. From August 4 to 7, only the large floats partake in the event.
Join the parade!
Dancers wearing the costume called "haneta" surround the float. Seeing the dancers and hearing the music is another essential element of the festival's cheerful atmosphere.
You can actually join in and dance with the crowd! Wearing the haneta is the only requirement. Haneta's can be bought at department stores for approximately 10,000 yen or it is also possible to rent one for approximately 4,000 yen.
Fireworks on the last day!
The last day ends with a spectacular fireworks show. A winning float is chosen and as the tradition goes, it sails at sea for one night. To celebrate this, 10,000 fireworks illuminate the sky to the to the delight of the many festival goers. This is the most popular day to go.
Word of caution
As is it is the case for many major festivals in Japan, getting to the festival's site may get difficult because of the crowds. Expect an hour of congestion at the Aomori station if you had planned to arrive right before the start and right after it finishes. It's better to plan ahead and arrive early and leave late.
Also make sure to stay hydrated! It's not always easy to navigate through the crowds to get some water.
This is a must-see of the Tohoku region! People from all over Japan travel to see it. The gigantic lantern-warriors, the dancers and the music are sure to amaze you.