At the lively summer night, more than 10 thousand orange-lit lanterns dance like straw-bags filled with rice and over 200 bamboo poles wave like the ears of rice telling us the bumper crop of the year. The energetic musical accompaniment expressed with Japanese traditional instruments and shouts “Dokkoisho” further liven up the festival. Longing for this once-in-a-year fantastic festival, numerous people gather around the Kanto Street in Akita city. Every year, around 1.3 million people visit Akita during the four days of festival from 3rd of August to 6th of August.
The history of Kanto
Kanto has over 200 years of history. Originally, it began around 1750 as the ritual called “Neburi-Nagashi” aiming for getting rid of summer diseases and exorcising evil spirits. Then, later it incorporated the idea of Tanabata festival praying for the huge harvest to become today’s style of Kanto festival. Being recognized its folk cultural value, the Kanto festival was designated as “the national intangible folk cultural assets” in 1980. It is even counted as one of the Tohoku festivals along with Aomori Nebuta festival and Sendai Tanabata festival.
Performers of Kanto
The leading actor of Kanto festival is the “Sashite” who gracefully holds and controls the bamboo poles. The basic trick of Kanto is called “Nagashi” which switches holder one by one. Other tricks are named Hirate, Hitai, Kata, and Koshi after body parts on which each Kanto poles are placed. (The palm of hand, forehead, shoulder, and waist) The skilled experts are even able to put the poles inside of mouse?? and some also put up Japanese umbrella or use fans to dance while holding poles. As for the Kanto poles, there are four different kinds (Yowaka, Kowaka, Chuwaka, Owaka) according to its height and the amount of lanterns it hangs. The heaviest one (Owaka) measures 12 meters, weighs 50 kg and hangs 46 lanterns lit by real candles. The Shinto sacred paper (Gohei) is tied up on the top of every Kanto poles. Another important player of the festival is “Ohayashi” who performs Japanese flutes and drums to encourage Sashite with their marvelous melody. While Sashite is organized only by men, Ohayashi accepts female players too. The most famous musical accompaniment is “the Akita-Bayashi” and “Minato-Bayashi”
The Kanto festival is divided into two parts; the Kanto competition at noon and Kanto Parade at night. In the daytime, performers compete in the Kanto techniques and gracefulness or musical competences in solo or group. At night, performers parade through the Kanto Street to amuse audience and interact with them. In the morning of August 7th, the representative of every Kanto group throws “Gohei paper” into the river wishing for the disappearance of evil spirits following the ancient custom. You can experience Kanto not only in Akita, but also in other cities in Japan and even outside of Japan. Today, the magnificence of Kanto is widely recognized in the world.
- Event date
- 3rd - 6th of August
- Akita Kanto festival executive commitie
- Night performance: Kanto Street (the main site of Knato festival) Daytime performance: Nakaichi erea
- Akita city
- Bleachers Rates
- 2,100 yen
- Propriety of bleachers Pre-registration
- Bleachers in advance How to Apply
- The Internet, phone call, FAX
- Group discount rate of bleachers