From Akita to Tokyo There are Festivals as Japan Makes Merry.
Japan’s spectacular Carnivals are events for visitors to enjoy and take part in, from an illuminated procession of papier-mache dummies to a festival honouring toads
August is Carnival month in Japan, and it can almost be guaranteed that you won’t see their like anywhere else – with the exception perhaps, of Hiroshima.
Nebuta Matsuri, Aomori
It is believed that in the early 9th century, a General Tamuramaro devised the idea of creating large creatures called “Nebuta” to frighten off the enemy, and this is the excuse for the first festival of August, The Nebuta (August 2nd – 7th). Recalling the past, illuminated papier-mache dummies representing historical figures or Kabuki characters are pulled through the street on carriages. People dressed in traditional Nebuta costumes and playing tunes on flutes and drums, dance around them as they parade.
Kanto Matsuri, Akita
During the period August 2nd – 5th we have the Kanto Matsuri in Akita, a festival originally held to ward of sleepiness before harvesting in case this should interfere with work and the bringing in of the rice. In the ceremony, the spirits are cast into a river to be carried away to sea, and Kanto are the decorations made from bamboo poles from each of which are hung 46 lanterns. At the Akita festival, the young men of the city parade through the streets carrying 160 kantos balanced on their shoulders, hips or hands, each Kanto weighing up to 60 kg.
Peace Ceremony, Hiroshima.
No one needs to be reminded of the significance of Hiroshima, and at 8.15 on the morning of 6th August, the exact time that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the Peace Bell rings out and the sirens go off throughout the city. It is a moving moment and has to be experienced to truly understand the awfulness of Hiroshima.
This is followed by one minute’s silence which is also observed throughout the country. In the evenings, the citizens of the city set thousands of lighted lanterns adrift on the Ota River and prayers for world peace are said.
Mt. Tsukuba Toad Festival, Tsukuba, Chiba.
What is possibly the most intriguing festival takes place on August 6th at the Tsukuba Shinto Shrine, in honour of toads. Yes, toads: toads that have given their lives to make toad grease, an ointment which was used in feudal days as it was believed to make skin invulnerable to spear and sword wounds. The Shinto Shrine itself is toad-shaped and houses some toad paraphernalia and as you can imagine, it’s the place to buy the quirky gift for the friends back home, i.e. everything “toady”, from key-rings to towels.
You will see people dressed in traditional costumes, hear traditional music and see some strange dances. The evening is complete with a grand firework finale. Tsukuba City is about 1 hour from Tokyo by train.
Until 9th September – Sky Aquarium at Ropponqi Hills, Tokyo.
Giving a new meaning to flying fish, visitors to Tokyo this summer can see tropical fish 250m. high in the sky while taking in the city’s spectacular views from the Tokyo City View Observation Deck at Roppongi Hills.
Here an undersea world of tropical fish, aquatic plants, coral and rocks has been created for the delight of everyone who visits the venue high in the sky. Tokyo keeps coming up with new and stimulating ideas to attract visitors, and their new Sky Aquarium is sure to be a hit with everyone.
Admission 1,800 Yen ($15, €11), open 11.00 – 22.00)