If you are a “challenge edition” listner, maybe you already know this story, but it was such a great experience I decided to write about it in the first エイブログ.
This story is about my trip to Aomori for the Nebuta festival!
My friend (Ryo) is from Aomori, and when we were drinking one night, he said, “hey let’s go to Nebuta!”. It was about 2 weeks before the festival, and we were drinking... so actually, I forgot about it!
Then about one week before Nebuta, Ryo called me and said, “Remember? We are going to Nebuta!”. When he said that, I suddenly remembered and said, “Oh yes! Of course! Let’s go!” 😕
At first, we wanted to go by Shinkansen, but when we checked the tickets, it was all sold out! (>_<) Also, there were no hotel rooms available in the whole city! I guess we made our plans too late.
We decided to rent a car, and sleep in the car after the festival. Also, Ryo made reservations for our Nebuta “costumes”. Our planning was late, so we had to get an early “costume” fitting time.
Our group was 4 people. Ryo, my French-African friend (Stephane), his girlfriend (Zhaleh - who is from Iran), and I. It was very international – like a human rainbow! Haha.
We met very early in the morning at the car rental shop and got on the road right away. It was a very long drive, so we played some car games to pass the time.
Finally we arrived in Aomori, and went to the costume shop. They fitted our costumes, gave us tabi and zori, and tied them onto our feet. The costumes were blue, white and red, and had many bells attached. Now we were ready for Nebuta! Yay!
...But it was still very early! We had to wait for another 3-4 hours for the festival to start! We felt a little strange walking around in our costumes and jingling bells. People must have thought we were very excited for the festival.
As time passed, more and more people gathered in town and soon there were many people wearing costumes. Ryo was teaching us the traditional Nebuta dance (跳ね方), and we started to feel a little nervous. We bought some beer and drank it to calm our nerves!
When the Nebutas and drums were gathering into the parade, I saw a woman pushing a Nebuta and drinking a beer at the same time, then she finished the beer and put it inside the Nebuta – so they had a bag for empty cans inside the Nebuta. That made me laugh. Everyone was relaxed and having a good time, so it made us feel more relaxed too.
Nebuta is special, and different from most festivals because anybody can put on a costume and join. If you are wearing a costume you can go in and out of the parade anytime and anywhere. There are no rules, except that you have to dance and jump and chant! らっせら、らっせら！
We went into the parade and waited for it to begin. We met some people, and everyone was very friendly. The parade started slowly, and the excitement built up as the drums got louder. Soon everyone was jumping and dancing and yelling. After about 20min, we decided to take a “beer break”. 😀
We continued to join in, dance, yell, jump, sweat, SWEAT... Then take a “beer break” and join in at another place. Our plan was to leave a little early, because we didn’t want to wait in a long line to return the costumes. However, it was so fun, so we had to continue to the end!
Even though we felt tired, the drums and people continued to get us very excited with their dancing and chanting. We continued jumping and dancing until our legs were completely dead, and all our bells had fallen off our clothes. Stephane’s tabi broke, and I noticed he was walking around bare-foot!
For the last 15 minutes we just watched and enjoyed the beautiful Nebutas and drumming from the sideline. We were completely exhausted!
We went back to the costume shop, waited in a long line, and returned our costumes. After that we went looking for a restaurant. It was hard to believe that the city was so crowded and noisey only one hour ago. Now it was back to being quiet little Aomori – the transformation happens so quickly!
We found an izakaya, and ordered a lot of seafood. It was very cheap and so delicious! さすが青森！
I'll never forget my first Nebuta experience, and if I can, I will go again next year. 😆