Tuesday, August 11, 2009

rase-rase-rase-ra or Nebuta Festival

Last week we spent a long day in Aomori, the capital of our prefecture also called Aoromi, celebrating the Nebuta festival.

"There are many theories about the origin of the Nebuta Festival. One is that it is said to have originated after the subjugation of rebels in this district by "General TAMURAMARO" in the early 800's. He had his army create large creatures, called "Nebuta", for frighten the enemy. Another theory is that the Nebuta Festival was a development of the "TANABATA" festival in China. One of the customs during this festival was "TORO" floating. A "toro" is a wooden frame box wrapped with Japanese paper. The Japanese light a candle inside the "TORO" and put it out to float onto the river or into the sea. The purpose behind this is to purify themselves and send the evil spirits out to sea. "TORO" floating is still one of the most impressive and beautiful sights during the summer nights of the Japanese festivals. On the final night, "toro" floating in accompanied by a large display of colorful fireworks. This is said to be the origin of the Nebuta Festival. Gradually these floats grew in size, as did the festivities, until they are the large size they are now. Today the Nebuta floats are made of a wood base, carefully covered with this same Japanese paper, beautifully clolred, and lighted from the inner part with hundreds of light bulbs. In early August the colorful floats are pulled through the streets accompanied by people dancing in native Nebuta costumes, playing tunes on flutes and drums. "

We barely made it to Aomori, about an hour and a half away, in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the parade. One might think that it was too short, but with three kids that's about all you need of a parade. It was a great 10 minutes though. Just a bit better than the Riverton Days Parade.
It was filled with so much excitement. These Japanese really know how to celebrate! The floats were so big and detailed, they almost looked alive. We saw then during the day, but the rest of the week the parades were at night with them all lite up. During the parade one person would call out "rase-rase-rase-ra!" Then everyone else will chant it back, over and over. This is joined by a twitter of flutes and steady pounding of the drums. Surprisingly, for something so constant and repetative, it didn't get annoying and you find yourself joining in despite having no clue what they are chanting. (I believe it is the equivilant of cheering someone along. One site says it is just a chant used "to shake away the sleepiness of summer.")
Later that night we saw the longest firework show we've ever been to. It lasted 2 hours and had lots of "finales." A few were so grand that the smoke in the sky began to obscure the continueing fireworks. Fireworks were great and all, but the cool part was they took some of the floats and took them out on the water on barges. The night was filled with these brightly lite giant floats accentuated by huge fireworks and flutes and chants of Nebuta.

We tried to leave early to beat traffic out of the city. There were sooo many people there! So we headed back to the car only to be behold this:Our car was totally blocked and we had to wait another hour+ to be able to leave! We had a good time despite being so tired from lots of walking. We enjoyed a steamed bun, yaki soba, rice balls, chicken nuggets, and of course ice cream from the ever present festival vendors.


Anonymous said...

Those pictures are incredible!

Shelly said...

How come the pictures are so small? :(

WIsh I was there with you all!