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.