Matsuri Tsukuba 2007

The first time I heard of the word “nebuta,” it was while watching a TV program featuring the famous floats that the “Nebuta Festival” of Aomori is known for. Although I lived in the Tohoku region for more than three years, not once did I have the opportunity to visit Aomori (I got as far as Akita, though).

Fortunately, right here in Tsukuba we can still enjoy a smaller version of the “nebuta.”

According to the Aomori website on nebuta:

There are many theories about the origin of the Nebuta Festival. One is that it is said to have originated after the subjugation of rebels in this district by “General TAMURAMARO” in the early 800’s. He had his army create large creatures, called “Nebuta”, for frighten [sic] the enemy.

Another theory is that the Nebuta Festival was a development of the “TANABATA” festival in China. One of the customs during this festival was “TORO” floating. A “toro” is a wooden frame box wrapped with Japanese paper. The Japanese light a candle inside the “TORO” and put it out to float onto the river or into the sea. The purpose behind this is to purify themselves and send the evil spirits out to sea. “TORO” floating is still one of the most impressive and beautiful sights during the summer nights of the Japanese festivals. On the final night, “toro” floating in accompanied by a large display of colorful fireworks. This is said to be the origin of the Nebuta Festival. Gradually these floats grew in size, as did the festivities, until they are the large size they are now.

I guess that’s the reason why the nebuta figures are almost always portrayed with angry faces and war-like stance? Well, I guess in a way they remind me of the battle scenes with humongous oliphaunts in Lord of the Rings! Ok, bad comparison. :)

For me, the best way to enjoy the nebuta parade is at nighttime, when the floats are lit and more colorful.

Hauling off this giant float is hard work. Here, volunteers pause for a breather.

Let me just share to you two video clips I took during the parade.

First video: Taken during the nebuta parade. Watch out for the guy in the mascot costume being followed by a crowd of girls fanning him like crazy. The poor dude just had to air out his head. It must have been hell-hot inside that costume!

Second video: Dancing in the streets, Japanese-matsuri style. This reminds me of the Ati-atihan festivals in the Philippines, although hands down, that is much more engaging and entertaining. How different? Wear skimpy clothes, paint yourselves black from head to toe, and do that kind of manic dancing to the rhythm of the drums under the scorching heat of the tropical sun! And oh, no shoes allowed.

Ok, I digress.

Anyway, have fun with the video. :) You would hear Baggy shouting “Pera! Pera!” (Money! Money!) Actually, the singers were shouting (not singing? heh.) something like “Sera! Sera!” It just sounded like “pera” to our Filipino ears. :)

You can find more video/photos of the festival from Dimaks and Tsukublog.

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14 Responses to Matsuri Tsukuba 2007

  1. herb says:

    oooh i didnt see this! shucks.

  2. dimaks says:

    bakit di na lang sila gumamit ng truck or motorized carriage para sa malalaking floats? hehe. ah, baka dahil sa global warming? umuwi na ako nyan, di ko na pinanood, alam ko vi-video nyo naman e =D

  3. verns says:


    Youtube is blocked in our office so I can’t enjoy the videos..hayyy buhay ng hindi anak ng Diyos hehe :)

    But I can imagine the floats…parang nakakatakot kasi yung mga facial expression nila galit hehe

  4. snglguy says:

    Hmm, I think I saw this once, on The Discovery Channel. The Japanese has one of the most colorful festivals around… grabeh

  5. Gina says:

    I barely made out Baggy’s ‘pera,pera!’ but I heard you say, ‘pahinga muna…’ =)

    What an awesome display!

  6. bw says:

    Wow.. Japan’s culture is just so rich with these dragons and poweful creatures. It is amazing that the most technologically modern society still celebrate these legends up to this day and age :)

  7. pining says:

    Must be an awesome experience watching that float! I would have loved to see it for real :-)
    thanks for sharing!

  8. kathy says:

    Buti pala nai-video ko hehe. 😛

  9. kathy says:

    Parang bayanihan ata yun, Dimaks. :)
    Kami lagi gabi nanonood, mas masaya kasi dahil hindi na mainit at saka mas colorful yung floats.

  10. kathy says:

    Naku Verns, buti na lang yung blogging at surfing di pa nababawal sa office nyo. Sana naman hindi.
    Enjoy the pics na lang. :)

  11. kathy says:

    Yep, festivals here are big events. The Gion festival in Kyoto is one of the biggest, I think.

  12. kathy says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Gina!

  13. kathy says:

    Dragons are prominent in Chinese culture, but not so much in Japanese, I think.
    Anyway, it is really admirable how Japan has preserved much of their cultural legacy – temples dating back thousands of years ago, castles, etc, can still be found even in the most modern cities here.

  14. kathy says:

    Glad to know you liked it, Pining. :)

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