One of the most beautiful summer festivals is “Kanto Maturi.” The festival is held yearly during August, (3rd – 7th,) in Akita city. “Kanto” is an array of paper lanterns that can be up to 12 meters high with a number of cross poles, supported by a single pole. “Matsuri” means festival. The “Kanto Matsuri” festival was designated as “Japanese Folk Cultural Property” in 1980, for its historic and cultural value. This insures the continued support and subsidy by the government as a vehicle to transmit cultural heritage and values.
This festival, originated in the mid 1700’s during the “Edo” era to celebrate bountiful harvests and to prevent or erase disease and illness. Akita prefecture is located in Japan’s Northeastern area and has witnessed many historic famines and depends on a plentiful agricultural harvest to sustain the population during winter. The candle lit, lantern array symbolizes rice bales and the bamboo pole is symbol of the ear of rice. A lantern array can contain up to 50 lanterns. The nightly, festival parade may contain up to 250 candle lit arrays.
During the festival, powerful youths dressed short pants, “happi” jacket with “Hachimaki” headbands, and “Tabi“socks, paraded though streets along with Japanese traditional “taiko” drumming, and flute musical bands and performers. Single performers hoist each “Kanto.” The performer, without the use of hands, must balance the “Kanto” pole using their hip, shoulders, palm and forehead. At night, the lit lantern arrays coupled with the performer’s prowess create a truly unforgettable spectacle.
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