Short yet vibrant summer in Northern Tohoku

Summer in Northern Tohoku is short however people there are no less passionate than people in other regions. Millions of visitors come to see summer festivals in Tohoku, experience exciting nights to the full. Dynamic “Haneto” dance around floats in Nebuta Festival, for example, is explosive expression of Tohoku people who are well known for their modest behavior.
Summer festivals in each area are the highlights of summer in Northern Tohoku.

Iwate Prefecture

  • Wanko Soba, Morioka city
    Very distinctive serving style of Soba (buckwheat) noodles in Morioka area is called “Wanko Soba”. A very small portion of Soba will be quickly and endlessly refilled in your bowl right after you are done with a portion unless you successfully slide the lid to cover the bowl before the next portion is thrown. Failing to block the next portion means you will have to keep on eating. It may sound a bit scaring but is actually a fun.
    Azumaya is recommended if you try it for the first time.
  • Morioka Sansa Odori Festival, Morioka city
    Dancing to the tune of Japanese drums is the style of Sansa dance. Unique to the dance is; drummers also dance together.
    Visitors will be encouraged to participate in the dance during “Wa-odori” (circle dance) sessions at the festival. Teachers wearing yellow sash are willing to teach you how to dance on site.
    Dates: Aug. 1 to 4
    Time: 18:00 to 21:00
    Venue: Chuo-dori, Morioka
  • Ryusendo Cave, Iwaizumi town
    This limestone cave is one of the largest in Japan and has been a designated national natural treasure. The cave is yet to be fully explored with only 700 meters out of already explored 4,000 meters are open to the public. Scientists say it could be 5,000 meters long or beyond.
    Natural beauty of stalagmite, underground lakes filled with brilliant blue water are charm of the cave. As temperature in the cave is around 10 Celsius degree throughout the year, you may need a jacket or a long sleeve shirt even in the mid-Summer high noon.
    Surprisingly, you can see far more transparent blue water in the underground lakes during winter as cold winter prevents water from dripping from the ceiling to the lake, and less water flows into to the lakes.
    Access: 2 hours 20 minutes drive via Route 281 and 340
  • Jodogahama beach, Miyako city
    The name has its origin in description by a high-rank monk praising the beauty of the beach being comparable to “a heaven on this world” in the 17th century. Green pine trees on the white jaggy pillar rocks against blue ocean makes an awesome contrast with white pebble beach.
    Japanese counterpart of “Grotta Azzurra” is actually here at Jodogahama. Charter a boat at “Jodogahama Marine House” to see the grotto. Water in the grotto changes its colour from emerald green to deep blue depending on temperature and weather.
    Access: 2 hours 50 minutes drive via Tohoku and Kamaishi Expressway

Akita Prefecture

  • Omagari Fireworks, Daisen city
    One of the largest fireworks competitions in Japan, attracting more than seven hundred thousand people. 28 pyrotechnicians compete for their skills and demonstrate their fireworks in both daytime and nighttime sessions. Fireworks for daytime session look very different as coloured fume being used instead of light, thus are quite rare in these days. Technique of the pyrotechnicians is put to the real test.
    The small city with a population of 81,000 will be extremely overcrowded with visitors on the day. Traffic around the venue will be heavily restricted thus visitors should be prepared to walk.
    Date: End of Aug.
    Time: daytime session 17:15 / nighttime session 18:50
    Access to Daisen city centre: 2 hours 10 minutes drive via Route 46.
  • Kanto Festival, Akita city
    Another one of the three biggest summer festivals in Tohoku. Kanto festival has its root in mid-summer evil exorcise ritual. These days it turns out to be an occasion to hope for good harvest as Kanto looks like mature rice-stalk. At the festival, more than 280 bamboo-framing Kantos with 10,000 lanterns fantastically light up the city centre. Performers hold the Kanto on their foreheads or lower back while carefully balancing the Kanto.
    Dates: Early Aug.
    Time: daytime session 17:15 / nighttime session 18:50
    Access to Akita city centre: 2 hours 40 minutes drive via Tohoku and Akita Expressway, or 3 hours via Route 46.

Aomori Prefecture

  • Fruit Picking
    Delicious strawberry, blueberry, peach and more! Depends on the season, but All fruits you can pick and eat for 1,000 yen/person. No restrictions apply on picking time.
  • Nebuta Festival, Aomori city
    Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of the three biggest summer festivals in Tohoku along with Kanto Festival in Akita. Gigantic floats mainly have mythological or historical events motif, need three months to build from scratch, cost approximately twenty million yen per float. 9 meter width, 7 meter depth, 5 meter height is the maximum size for a Nebuta float which will weigh nearly 4 tons. Floats will be basically disassembled after the festival.
    Dynamic “Haneto” dance around giant floats in the Festival is eye-grabbing. 500 to 1,000 Haneto dancers marching and dancing around each float. “Haneto” costumes are available to rent at around 4,000 yen at rental shops in the city. Visitors who wish to buy one for themselves or for souvenir can purchase the costume at department stores or specialty shops during the festival.
    Dates: Aug. 2 to7
    Time: 19:10 to 21:00
    Access to Aomori city centre: 1 hours 50 minutes drive via Tohoku Expressway, or 3 hours 20 minutes via Route 282.