Aomori Nebuta Festival

Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of three largest festivals in Tohoku region. More than 20 illuminated floats parade at night on the main streets in Aomori City.
The festival is held annually, from July 2nd to 7th (it’s held during daytime on the last day), and there’re always about 3 million (population of Aomori City is about 300 thousands) spectators from inside and outside of Aomori, even from overseas.
Nebuta Festival is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

This festival is so famous that many people might have seen it through various kinds of media, but I think, living in Aomori, I’m lucky to see not only the festival itself but also the process of making a float.

1. Concept and rough sketch
The idea of nebuta is usually based on historical stories, myths and legends, sometimes kabuki stories are also adopted. A producer takes quite a long time to draft as the sketch is like a design drawing.

2. Putting up a hut
A hut is required for making nebuta and for storage. Frontage: approx. 12m, depth: approx. 12m, height: approx. 6~7m

3. Preparation of the details
Details like face, hands, feet, sword and spear are made beforehand. Size of the parts is calculated by proportional expression. Making those details continues until just before a hut is built.

I traced the eyes, nose and face on the photo.
4. Framework
Making the structure starts with making pillars of square timbers, and then outlines are formed with wires and threads. Bamboo used to be used until 1950s.

5. Electric wiring (lighting)
Candles were used inside nebuta for lighting before, but nowadays, about 1000 electric lights are used with power source from a generator. These days, LED is becoming popular for lighting.

6. Pasting papers
Japanese papers are pasted on the frames. Bond for woodworking is used, and it’s difficult not to put bond beyond the border of the frames. After completing this procedure, it becomes more like nebuta.

My co-worker Kyu-san tried pasting papers.


7. Kakiwari (inking the outlines of the structure)
Faces, collar, belt and patterns of kimono (clothes) are to be framed with black ink. Inking is very important to bring about energy and force of nebuta.

8. Wax drawing
Wax drawing is another important procedure to deepen expressions of nebuta with melted paraffin wax. It brightens up nebuta and also prevents running of the color paints.

9. Coloring
To color remaining white area, dye-ink and water pigment are used with brushes and spray bottles.

10. Putting up to a stand
About 40 - 50 people are required to put up nebuta to the stand with wheels. Height of the whole float is approximately 5m.


Background and ASPAM

Generator underneath

11. This is it.
It still needs more decorations for the stand, but this is nebuta.

The Festival this year is finished, but you still get information for next year.
Aomori Nebuta Festival Official Homepage: http://www.atca.info/nebuta_en/

Aomori Sightseeing Guide "aptinet": http://en.aptinet.jp/


  1. My name is Melanie and im writting you an email because i've been browsing your blog, so i thought you may like to take a look at mine!
    I've been travelling to Japan and decided to make a cartoon about it
    I hope you will enjoy it !

  2. The result is really nice ! I really appreciate the step by step explanations! Usually I watch and never think about how It is made. Thanks for this!