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Akita Kanto Festival Tours

The Kanto Matsuri (竿燈まつり) is one of the three great festivals in the Tohoku region. It is also known as the “pole lantern festival.” Every year it is scheduled from August 3 to August 6 and the festival is about praying for a good harvest. The Kanto Matsuri first originated from the Horyaku period (1751-1763). Before it was known as Kanto Matsuri it was referred to as Neburi Nagashi, which is a ceremony to repel drowsiness. This is because the summer heat would sometimes be unbearable to work in and it was much easier to fall asleep. Today to combat this lethargic atmosphere the Kanto Matsuri created an upbeat and festive mood to motivate people to work. The festival was a ceremony to purify and protect people from evil spirits that meant to do harm during the harvest season. Back then they hung lanterns in their garden on bamboo. Gradually the size of the bamboo and the amount of lanterns increased. The name of the festival changed to Kanto, which translates to pole lantern, when the Meiji Emperor came to Akita for a visit back in 1881. Today the bamboo poles can reach up to 12 meters and weigh 50 kg with up to 46 lanterns. The lanterns represent the bales of rice and the gohei on top is for the prayer as well as telling the wind conditions. There are 5 different techniques involving the Kanto, which are nagashi (passing), hirate (palm), hitai (forehead), kata (shoulder), and koshi (lower back.) A competition is held to see which group or person is the best for the different categories. There are a limited amount of contestants that can enter so preliminary rounds are held to eliminate the excess. The Day Kanto is when the competition is held, but at night the groups perform for the audience. It is said that it takes 40% strength and 60% skill to balance a kanto. It takes years of practice to be able to adequately hold a kanto let alone perform the techniques.

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