Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kantou Matsuri - festival of lanterns

Kantou Matsuri held in Akita city is one of the top three festivals of Tohoku region of Japan along with Nebuta of Aomori and Tanabata of Sendai. A Kantou is an array of many candle-lit lanterns hung on a bamboo frame and each one looks like a glowing ear of rice. A larger Kantou weighs about 50 kg, rises 12 m into the air and suspend 46 lanterns. With more than 200 Kantous, the number of individual lanterns reaches 10,000. The performers balance the Kantou without gripping the poles on the palms of their hands, and also on the forheads and shoulders.
The festival was held from 3rd-6th August this year. Hubby and me decided to go to the festival on 3rd August, the first day itself, as it was a Sunday. We started from our home at about 2 pm to reach Akita city by 3 pm. Finding a car parking place was rather difficult as a large number of people from all over Japan came to watch the festival. However, after finally parking the car we still had about 3 hours to kill. So we went to a game center, and spend about 1 hour playing UFO catcher. It was very amusing and I realized that I have absolutely no sense for the game. Hubby was also playing after a gap of 3 years, so initially he also couldn't play well. Here is a video of it.

We had an early dinner of Ramen in one of the restaurants near Akita station, and by 6.30 pm we were ready to go to the festival spot. About 1.2 million people gathered to watch the festival, which was very amazing!! People were eagerly waiting alongside the Kantou Odori (road). I was pleasantly surprised to hear several announcements being made in English welcoming gaijin (foreigners)! The festival began at 7 pm. Unfortunately it was a rainy day and started drizzling. So people had their umbrellas open, which made the viewing a bit difficult but cannot complain....The kantous fell down several times due to windy conditions. There were constant announcements being made to be careful of the falling Kantous! It was marvellous and breathtaking to see so many lanterns in a procession. It was really a pleasing view. We watched the procession for about an hour. Below are some photos of the Kantous and a video of the Matsuri. Afterwards we went to the food stalls and ate frankfurters, yaki-tori, and yakisoba to our heart's content.

I was satisfied to the core, and slept the entire way on our ride back home. Kantou Matsuri was really fantastic! It was a very pleasant day for us.

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