It is said that the Akita Kanto Matsuri started in the Edo period, as an event known as Neburi Nagashi, to cleanse ones’ self of bad spirits and illness during the heat of the O-bon season in the summer.
Paper lanterns (in the shape of komedawara—traditional reed bags for transportation and storage of rice) are hung from large bamboo poles and made to resemble rice plants ready for an abundant grain harvest. The largest one, Owaka, is 12 meters tall and weighs 50 kilograms. The celebrants perform one balancing act after the other, carrying around the bending and billowing lantern poles, or Kanto, on their open palms, foreheads, shoulders and hips. These powerful performances are without a doubt the highlight of the festival. At night, the city colorfully comes alive as over 270 Kanto fill the main streets.
During the day, as a complete change from the flowery ambiance of night, you can enjoy the balance performers showoff their talents alongside their musical accompaniments at meets called Myogi-kai. People say that carrying the Kanto, bending over from their own sheer weight like a fully ripened rice plant, is four parts strength and six parts technique. These powerful stunts, commanded with exquisite balance, will make your palms sweat.
At night, the festival’s main street is practically buried under 270+ bamboo poles, whose glowing lanterns create a swaying fantasy-like scenery. The lit Kanto truly resemble large glowing plants of rice. During “Interactive Time” that is held after the festival performances, you can go up close to take some rare shots and even try holding the Kanto yourself.
The most exciting part of the festival is when the balancer (Sashite) hits his extremely difficult tricks on the mark. He connects separate sections of bamboo called Tsugitake to raise the lanterns high and controls, at free will, the poles that seem ready to snap at any moment. At the Myogi-kai, also known as “noon-time Kanto”, both the balancing acts and accompanying musicians compare their skills. A big change from the night performances, these show-offs display their miraculous feats in a close and heated match. You can even see little youngsters compete, doing tricks that put even adults to shame. Be sure to give them a big round of applause.
There are many official goods sold at the festival such as original T-shirts and foldable fans. The Akita Kanto Hand-towel (1000yen), that has prints showing the Kanto in action, are perfect for souvenirs with their long shape that do the tall poles justice.
You will find local Akita gourmet at the Kanto Food Stand Village held nearby the performance venue. Try an array of popular Akita delights, such as Yokote Yakisoba and Babahera (“granny spoon”) Ice cream. Find your favorite taste of Akita at this village.
Please do not enter streets designated for Kanto performances while they are happening.
Please be careful, as Kanto falling on bystanders/viewers does happen.
Please follow the staff’s directions during the crowded hours.
The use of drones is prohibited.
JR Akita Station
Closest Bus Stop
*Traffic regulations regarding the festival are put into effect from 18:15. Please make a detour.
For further information please visit the official Akita Chuoukotsu website.