Articles by Simon Bernard    

Towadako Kunizakai Festival at Lake Towada

If you did not get enough of Japanese festivals or you missed some of the best ones this year, you still have a golden opportunity to see them all in one place. The Kuni-zakai Festival, literally meaning the land border festival, brings a part of the best festivals from Northern Tohoku to you at Lake Towada Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd.

The 3 bordering prefectures, Aomori, Akita and Iwate send the best of the floats, dancers, food and music that their cultures have to offer providing you with the chance to see them again or experience them for the first time without having to travel so far!

Two different festivals are held each day. The afternoon festival starts from 15:30 to 17:00 and runs from Route 103 down the main street along side of Lake Towada to the end. The evening festival starts at 18:50 to 21:20 and is centered in the main parking area at Yasumiya.

One of the most spectacular events of the day is the Kanto lanterns from Akita City. A tradition that dates back 360 years, bon lanterns are lit and placed 6 in a row in stacks of 8 and hoisted on a 36 foot bamboo pole, weighing over 100 lbs., they are carried down the street and juggled to the delight of the on looking audience.

Bon lanterns are lit and placed 6 in a row in stacks of 8 and hoisted on a 36 foot bamboo pole, weighing over 100 pounds!

Another amazing event from Kakunodate City in Akita is the Giant Taiko Drums. These 6 feet high and 5 feet wide drums are resoundingly beaten as they are paraded down the street to the rhythm of the music. You may have the chance to try pounding them yourself!

Often bystanders are asked to help pull the floats and beat the drums!

Other festivals from Akita that are highlighted are the Hanawa Bayashi floats, these ornamental floats made from columns of the yew tree adorned with gold and lacquer are pulled as drummers and flutists inside play music from the Heian era. The Kosaka Town Ondo dancers and Tanabata floats are also included in the event.

Performances from Iwate Prefecture will include the Morioka Sansa dancers bringing the color and music from the central Iwate area and the famed Iwazaki Onikenbai dance from Kitakami City. With its roots dating back from the early 700s, this dance in full costume is very unusual in style and the dexterity of the dancers with their clappers and juggling is truly an amazing sight!

And then there are the festivals from Aomori. It goes without saying that the Nebuta floats and Haneto dancers will be the headliner, just one of the floats takes 3 months to build at a cost of over 2 million yen! About 2 million visitors come to Aomori every year to see this extravaganza. Also on parade will be the similar in origin but unique in style Ogi (fan) Nebuta floats from Kuroishi City.

The Enburi dancers from Hachinohe City and the Kurosishi City Yosare dancers will be in the parade. Also the chicken dance dating back from the Meiji era will be performed by Towada Lake Town Sawada Villagers.

This will be your last chance this year or maybe your only chance to see some of these unique festivals. If you are planning on going to the Air Fest, Saturday would be perfect! And if you go on Sunday, there will be light traffic going out of Misawa in the morning and again coming back into Misawa in the evening as the heavy traffic will going and coming in the opposite direction during those times! Hope to see you there!