Every year during the Nebuta Matsuri Festival a contest is held for the coveted Nebuta Grand Prize. According to the director of Sunroad Aomori, Kushibiki Junji who led his team to the title in 2011, the participants are not only judged on their festival floats, but also on the way the group breathes life into the float during the parade.
This article is especially interesting for people who would like to take part in the float parade of the prestigious Nebuta Matsuri Festival, as I will give you insight into some of the terms that are used in connection with the festival. Also, if you just want to get to know a bit more about this colorful Japanese festival, please keep reading!
Nebuta: this is the life-size lantern being paraded in the festival. It is also called Neputa in Hirosaki.
Nebuta-shi: The Nebuta-shi is the mastermind behind the Nebuta (floats) being paraded. He is a part of the creative process, you could see him as the manager who oversees everything, from the first concept of the design of the float to the supervision of the making process. This includes laying the sheets of Washi (traditional Japanese paper sheets) on the framework of the Nebuta.
Haneto: this is the term used for the male and female dancers in the parade, that dance to the music made by the Hayashi (musicians).
Hayashi: this is a general term for a group of musical performers for theatre performances, Rakugo (a form of Japanese entertainment) or a festival. This is a role that can be carried out by both men and women.
Taiko: the Taiko drum is a Japanese percussion instrument that is indispensable at any traditional festival in Japan. It refers to any kind of drum, and sometimes to a drumming ensemble which is then called a ‘kumi-daiko’. This instrument has been introduced in Japan during the 6th century by Koreans and Chinese traders.
Hikite: the role of Hikite is one that requires physical strength because it involves carrying the heavy float, which is why it is mostly done by men.
Fan-bearer: this is the person who leads the movements of the Hikite and the float. For most Nebuta enthusiasts obtaining this role, this is the ultimate goal. Besides trying to guide the float in a single fluid motion, the Fan-bearer also has to try and impress and entertain the crowd. Actually, you can see the Fan-bearer as the parade’s cheerleader.
Would you like to participate in the creative part of the preparation of this traditional festival or in the parade itself? Or would you just like to admire the work of others by watching the parade? Then be sure to head to Aomori around August (or way before if you want to help out), and be a part of this great tradition! If you can’t make it there in August but still want a taste of the festival, then make sure to check out the Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum in Aomori.