Summer in Japan is incredibly humid and hot, but also fun! During the months of July- September there are several festivals and markets that take place all over the country and it’s a great way to experience Japan with Japanese tourists instead of foreigners.
In my search for traditional and original experiences in the two weeks I spent in Japan this summer, I put the Aomori Nebuta Festival and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on the top of my list. It was impractical to traverse the entire length of Japan’s main island to attend these two festivals within a couple days, but sometimes you need to go the extra mile for those precious gems.
About the Aomori Nebuta 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 then 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?
The city sits in the north of the main island of Japan, about 5hrs 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 to visit 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 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 train ride away.
Aomori is not a sleepy little coastal town as I imagined, but don’t be surprised if no one you meet has ever heard of it.
Logistics to attend the festival
- Book hotels early- the festival happens during summer vacations and accommodations book fast. A great choice is to use Airbnb, but expect to pay higher prices than usual.
- The festival is held in the first week of August with the best day being August 7, the last day of the festival which is combined with fireworks.
- The starting point for the 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 is free, but if you would like to participate, you can rent the outfit for U$60. These can be done the day that you are attending the festival. There are several stores that provide rentals. Ask the local tourism office at the train station for the nearest place from you.
- 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!