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What's this? Introduction to Tohoku summer festivals held in early August in northern Japan.
August in Tohoku
During the first week of August, a few of the Japan's major summer festivals are held in the Tohoku region in northern Japan (Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures).
Besides the Big Three Tohoku festivals--the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, Akita Kanto Matsuri, and Sendai Tanabata Matsuri--the Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri and Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri are also major festivals well worth seeing.
Since these festivals are held for a few days (or nights) during the week, a well-planned travel itinerary can enable you to see all of them.
I don't know of any other region in Japan where you can see so many large festivals in such short period. Imagine seeing a different colorful festival every day for a week. Most of them take the form of an evening parade down the city's main drags. Since summer is short in Michinoku (the old name for Tohoku), people go all out during this month.
Getting to Tohoku is easy with the Tohoku shinkansen from Tokyo and Ueno Stations. From Tokyo Station, it takes about 2 hours to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. From there, you can take another train to Aomori.
It is a great pleasure to see a different festival almost every day. All the festivals are so colorful and unique and they were not as crowded as major festivals in Tokyo and Kyoto. Except for Sendai, there is hardly any pushing and shoving among the laid-back crowd.
My only complaint was that there was little time for sightseeing since I had to move on to the next city almost every day. I have to confess that I did not see all these festivals on a single trip. If you want to do some decent sightseeing as well, you will probably have to miss one or two festivals. To save sightseeing time, it's best to travel between cities at night or in the early morning.
Recommended side trips include Matsushima (near Sendai) and Hakodate in Hokkaido.
Finding lodging is a problem. You should make reservations as early as possible. If you have trouble finding lodging in a festival city, try a capsule hotel or hotels in remote cities within commutting distance to the festival cities.
Photo: A closeup of a kanto pole with lanterns at the Akita Kanto Festival.
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Last modified: 2004-06-16