The Akita Kanto Festival

Most Japanese regions, and cities, celebrate a harvest-related festival in late summer or early autumn. One of the most important, and oldest, of these is the Akita Kanto, celebrated in early August (3-7) in the city and prefecture of Akita.  The Akita Kanto festival exists to ward off disease and guarantee a fruitful autumn, as well as to “wash away sleepiness” among the population.

The earliest written references to the festival were made in a diary titled The Road Where the Snow Falls, written by a traveler named Tsumura Soan in 1789.

Among the highlights of the festival is the practice of carrying long bamboo poles (15-45 feet in length) hung with dozens of paper lanterns and Shinto symbols. The bearers carry the lighted lanterns through the city streets at (usually, but not always, at night), creating a dramatic spectacle.

 Akita Kanto (free license)

Bearers support the poles in a variety of ways: on their hands, shoulders, hips, and even foreheads. The location depends on the skill and training of the person carrying the lanterns, and adds to the drama of the festival.

You can learn more about this unique and important cultural festival at the official festival website — or, of course, by traveling to Japan and observing it for yourself!

Would you ever consider traveling to a foreign country in order to attend a specific festival? If so, is there one in particular you’d like to see?