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Blast in Japan Summer 2006

Festivals and Fireworks in Tohoku & Hokkaido Region
– August Edition –

Hachinohe Sansha Taisai
One of the most gorgeous festivals in Tohoku region with a history of 280 years and tradition, Hachinohe Sansha Grand Festival features mikoshi parades from three shrines (sansha means three shrines) and dashi (festival floats) with decorations deriving from ancient myths and legends (August 1st and 3rd). The Eve Ceremony will be held at night on July 31st, and at night on the 2nd there will be a joint parading of dashi. The grand festival will be wrapped up for the season with the Closing Ceremony on the last day, August 4th.
[Dates] July 31 – August 4, 2006
[Time] Approximately 11:00 – 21:00
[Location] Hachinohe City center
1-chome Uchimaru, Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture
[Access] 10-min-walk from JR Honhachinohe Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 0178-43-2111 (Hachinohe City Tourist Bureau)
[URL] http://www.city.hachinohe.aomori.jp/kanko/festival/sansya/index.html
(Hachinohe City official web site, Japanese)
(Hachinohe Local Information Channel Sansha Taisai intro, Japanese)
Hakodate Port Festival
Hakodate Minato Matsuri, or the Port Festival, is the prefecture’s enormous summer feature. Starting with the 10,000-shots-fireworks, the festival proceeds to the traditional Wasshoi Hakodate Parade with 30,000 dancers on the 2nd and 3rd, moving on to another traditional and local feature Ika-Odori where various dashi, songs and people rush across the city. On the final day, the station area will be closed to traffic making it a “pedestrian-paradise” and will hold all kinds of events including the one in a million hanadensha decorated tram.
[Dates] August 1-5, 2006
[Time] Approximately 9:00 – 21:30 (differs everyday)
[Location] Across Hakodate City (Fireworks are at Hakodate Port area)
12-5 Wakamatsucho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido Prefecture
[Access] Just outside JR Hakodate Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 0138-27-3535 (Hakodate Port Festival planning committee)
[URL] http://www.hakodate-minatomatsuri.org/
(Hakodate Port Festival planning committee official web site, Japanese)
Morioka Sansa Dancing
For four days of “Excitement, Fascination and Joy”, more than 20,000 dancers dressed in vivid yukata from 150 groups dance along the music and beats of 1,500 flutes and 10,000 drums. The music roaring across the summer night sky and the art of brilliant colors and movements are beautiful and energetic enough to give the audience goose bumps. Allcomers are also welcome.
[Dates] August 1-4, 2006
[Time] 18:00 – 21:20

Chuo-dori street
1-chome Chuo-dori, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture

[Access] 20-min-walk from JR Morioka Station
[Admission] Free (special seats Y2,000 per person)
[Inquiry] 019-624-5880 (Executive Committee of Morioka Sansa Dancing)
[URL] http://www1.sphere.ne.jp/iwate/sansa/sansa1.html
(Executive Committee of Morioka Sansa Dancing official web site, English)
Hirosaki Neputa Festival
This is a festival praying for good harvest, good catch, appreciation to the gods and consolation of the ancestors’ spirits. Borrowing the original colors from The Three Kingdom Saga (Chinese: Sanguozhi) and Outlaws of the Marsh (Shui Hu Zhuan), approximately 70 floats in brilliant colors and lively images parade around the city coloring the summer Tsugaru in bright red. The float itself is impressive enough, but the shouts of “yah-yah-doh” along with the powerful drumbeats together with the melancholic note of the flutes are as breathtaking and are very unique to this festival.
[Dates] August 1-7, 2006
[Time] Aug 1-6... 18:30 or 19:00 start / Aug 7... 10:00 start
(Please see web site for details)
[Location] Dotemachi area (8/1-4, 8/7) / Hirosaki Station area (8/5-6)
Oaza Ekimaecho, Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture
[Access] 10-min-walk from JR Hirosaki Station
[Admission] (reserved seats/ box seats... Y1,500)
[Inquiry] 0172-37-5501 (Hirosaki City Tourism Hall)
[URL] http://www.hirosaki.co.jp/htcb/sightseeing/fes/neputamatsuri.html
(Hirosaki Tourism And Convention Bureau official web site, Japanese)
Aomori Nebuta Festival
Gallant and moreover colossal floats of warrior figures called Nebuta, some as tall as 5 meters (16-17ft) that take nearly a year to build, parade around the city as the Haneto citizens dressed in unique costumes jump and dance around with the shouts of “lasselah-lasselah”. Nebuta Matsuri is counted as one of the Three Grand Festivals of Tohoku as well as one of Japan’s Three Grand Fire Festivals. Not only that, it is even one of the World’s Three Grand Fire Festivals. On the final day, there will be a fireworks display at Aomori Port, and also the Nebuta will be taken out to the sea.
[Dates] August 2-7, 2006
[Time] (8/1... evening ceremony) / 8/2-6... nighttime
8/7... daytime + fireworks at night
[Location] Aomori City center
Honcho, Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
[Access] 10-min-walk from JR Aomori Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 017-723-7211 (Aomori Tourism and Convention Association)
[URL] http://www.nebuta.or.jp/english/index_e.htm
(Aomori Nebuta Executive Committee official web site, English)
Akita Kanto Festival
Akita Kanto Festival derives from an old bon tradition called Neburi-nagashi in which people prayed for good harvest and chasing away diseases. The true fascination and thrill of this festival is most of all the balance show of the performers that can even be described as acrobatic. Performers balance on their palms, foreheads and shoulders bamboo poles more than 10 meters long with 9 bamboo polls tied horizontally each hanging a paper lanterns from end to end. As they balance carefully the 50-kilogram-poles with 46 lanterns swaying and march down the street, the area quickly takes on a unique atmosphere of awe and subtleness as well as enthusiasm. The specially set reserved seats offer viewers an incomparable enabling the entire series of wizardry to be seen perfectly.
[Dates] August 3-6, 2006
[Time] 8/3-6 day events...10:00 – 17:00 / 8/3-6 night events...19:00 – 21:00
8/4-6 feat events... 10:00 – 15:20
[Location] Kanto O-dori
Sanno, Akita City, Akita Prefecture
[Access] 20-min-walk from JR Akita Station
[Admission] Free (reserved seats... Y2,000 per person)
[Inquiry] 018-866-2112 (Kantou Maturi Zikkouiinkai; festival planning committee)
018-866-9977 (ticket reservation center)
[URL] http://www.kantou.gr.jp/english_top.html
(Kantou Maturi Zikkouiinkai; festival planning committee official web site, English)
Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
One of Tohoku’s Four Grand Summer Festivals alongside of Nebuta (Aomori), Kanto (Akita) and Tanabata (Sendai), this one is another grand-scale festival with energy of the “Yassho-makasho” shouts, gallant and powerful beats of the Hanagasa drums and the elegance of the gracefully colored dashi, costumes and the movement of the dancers. Viewers can also jump into the dance parade either at the tail of the parade or the circle dance in front of the city office.
[Dates] August 5-7, 2006
[Time] 18:00 – 22:00

Yamagata Tokamachi – Honcho – Nanokamachi street (1.2km straight course)
1-2 Tokamachi, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture

[Access] 10-min-walk from JR Yamagata Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 023-642-8753 (Yamagata Prefecture Hanagasa Council)
[URL] http://www.mountain-j.com/hanagasa/
(Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri official web site, Japanese)
Sendai Tanabata Festival
Although not as loud or energetic the way other summer festivals are in the Tohoku region, the Sendai Tanabata Festival is another Tohoku representative summer feature that you can’t miss if you’re in the region at this time of year. Along the arcade street stretching out from the facade of the station and other commercial streets that connect to the city center color the beautiful, creative and detailed Tanabata ornaments and decorations attracting two million people every year. The night of the 5th features a large-scale fireworks display, and every evening there will be a star festival. Many people gather around the main street, yet the byways also provide a townscape that invites you to the good old days.
[Dates] August 5-8, 2006
[Time] Evening – night

Higashi-Ichibancho, Chuo-dori, city center and commercial streets
Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

[Access] 3-min-walk from JR Sendai Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 022-265-8181 (Sendai Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
[URL] http://www.sendaitanabata.com/
(Sendai Tanabata Festival official web site, Japanese)
Akagawa Fireworks
A unique kind of fireworks display in the country which uses the whole area of Akagawa River and its riverbanks to the fullest extent, this display is also a competition stage for some of the best fireworks craftsmen to boast off their best works. It is also a place where the audience can appreciate a thrilling and exciting electric musical wide fireworks that are shot up in the air with only 200-meter-cannon-intervals and music to add flavor. The entire display is worth gluing your eyes to, from the musical fireworks in the beginning and the end, as well as the other two features.
[Dates] August 10, 2006
[Time] 18:45 –

Akagawa Riverbanks (Haguro Bridge – Mikawa Bridge)
Ise Yokouchi, Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture

[Access] Take temporary bus service from JR Tsuruoka Station to the last stop
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 0235-28-1873 (Tsuruoka Youth Council)
[URL] http://www.akagawahanabi.com/index.htm
(Akagawa Hababi Taikai official web site, Japanese)
Yotaka Andon Festival
“Andon” is another way of calling “chochin” or paper lanterns, but the andon used for this festival are gigantic being as large as 7 meters (23ft) tall, 11 meters (37ft) wide and 5 tons heavy – which may rather be called a dashi (float). It is one of the Three Great Andon Festivals of Hokkaido, and is also the only “kenka-andon” or the “fighting-andon” in the prefecture. By this, the term describes a kind of festival where more than ten andon (which again, are more like dashi) goes around the city ending up crashing into each other at the climax. The festival commemorates its 30th anniversary this year and on the 24th, all three greatest andons of Hokkaido get together allowing the audience to see three of them at once.
[Dates] August 24-26, 2006

8/24... starts early evening, goes until about 20:00
8/25... starts around 18:00 goes until about 21:30
8/26... Main Festival Day – starts from around 11:00 until 21:30 or so


Numata City center
3-1 Kita-Ichijo, Uryu County, Hokkaido Prefecture

[Access] Just outside JR Ishikari Numata Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 0164-35-2112 (Numata Community Development)
[URL] http://www.town.numata.hokkaido.jp/siteseeing/yotaka/yotaka.htm
(Numata Town official web site, Japanese)
Zenkoku Hanabi Kyogi Taikai
(All-Japan Fireworks Competition; aka Ohmagari Fireworks)
The All-Japan Fireworks Competition boasts the longest tradition of as well as height of the displays, and is the top fireworks display where only 30 chosen craftsmen from all over Japan win the tickets to compete. Being the top authority of all fireworks of Japan, counting its 80th holding this year, the competition provides a spectacular show of light and sound.
The display is consisted of two parts, the day (evening) show and the night competition/show, and is also a fireworks acknowledged by the government.
[Dates] August 26, 2006

Day (evening) competition... 17:00 – / Night competition... 18:50 –


Omonogawa Riverbanks special site (b/w Ohmagari Bridge and Himegami Bridge)
1 Ohmagari Funabacho, Daisen City, Akita Prefecture

[Access] 25-min-walk from JR Ohmagari Station
[Admission] free
[Inquiry] 0187-63-1111 (Daisen City Commerce, Industry and Tourism Bureau)
[URL] http://www.obako.or.jp/kaigisho/01_hanabi/01_hanabi.htm
(Ohmabari Zenkoku Hanabi Kyogi Taikai official web site, Japanese)
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