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Aomori Nebuta Festival

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Summer in Japan is packed with fun festivals! During the months of July- September these festivals take place all over the country and it’s a great way to experience Japan.

While foreign visitors to Japan tend to visit during the Spring and Fall, missing out on some of the best cultural experiences, the Japanese travel during the summer.

In my search for unique celebrations during the two weeks I spent in Japan, I put the Aomori Nebuta Festival and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on the top of my list.

I travelled the entire length of Japan’s main island to attend these two festivals within a couple days, which some might think it is crazy, but sometimes you need to go the extra mile for those precious gems. Also, Japan has the best bullet rail system in the world. It is very affordable for foreigners and if you plan it right, you can take full advantage of it.

History of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Festival

Aomori Nebula Festival is the largest float festival in Japan and an incredibly lively one.

Every year millions are spent crafting huge floats out of rice paper, glue and paint that are lit from inside and paraded through the streets of Aomori city, creating a mesmerizing effect. The magnitude of the floats combined with Taiko drums and the dancers that follow it chanting “Rassera” are part of an experience you should not miss if visiting Japan in the summer.

Where is Aomori?

Aomori city sits in the North of the main island of Japan, about 5 hours by train from Tokyo and about an hour by plane.

The train ticket is covered under the Japan rail pass, which makes it incredible affordable for visitors. The only drawback is the long ride, but once you travel in a Shinkansen, you understand that it’s incredibly comfortable so it’s not a problem.

I flew back to Kyoto to save time. The ticket on ANA was less than U$100 and the service impeccable. What it’s even better, I got to see Mt. Fuji from above the clouds. If you are planning on climbing Fuji San, you might want to check out my tips here.

I chose to arrive in Aomori around lunchtime, giving me time to get a glimpse of the city and find my accommodation which was outside the city, but a short local train ride away.

Aomori is so off the map that I was surprised that most people have not heard about it. It’s known for apples and beautiful cherry blossoms in the Spring.

Tips to Attend Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri Festival

Festival Schedule and Tickets

The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is held in the first week of August with the best day is the last day of the festival which is combined with fireworks.

The festival is free, just line up around the main street of Aomori city and watch the floats go by. There are free maps at the train station and at the visitor center with the route.

Bring a chair or something to put on the ground to sit on. Japanese families bring plastic tarps to sit on and share a meal while the floats are going by.

You can also participate in the Nebuta Matsuri as a festival goer. You can rent the outfit for around U$60 at store along the main drag of the festival. The outfits will be displayed outside on the street. Ask the local tourism office at the train station for the nearest place to get a rental and learn about the etiquette of joining the parade.

Book hotels early

The Nebuta Matsuri festival happens during the Japanese summer vacations and accommodations book fast. A great choice is to use Airbnb, but expect to pay higher prices than usual.

Where to watch the parade

The starting point for the Nebuta Matsuri festival is at the tents in which the floats are housed. From there the floats split and cross the main avenue of Aomori. Find a place halfway down, which should be less crowded.

The festival starts just before sunset and goes on for several hours. Make sure to pay attention to train schedules which do not always run as late as the festival.

If taking a plane, check bus schedules to the airport. Taxis and trains do not operate as early as the planes do.

Check out the festival information website for more detailed information and have fun!

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