Nebuta Festival in Japan

Summer time is always festival time.  I never realized this living in the US, but ever since we moved overseas I see that many countries use the summer time to celebrate one thing or another.  One of the best treats during festival season is the shave ice.  Shave ice is something you can get year round, but it is different from it comes from a little street vendor in the middle of a celebration and parade.  Of course that didn't stop us from buying our own electric shave ice maker.  We just couldn't resist!
Honestly, I had no idea if this was the right stuff until I saw the same stuff at a vendor at a festival.  I saw this in the grocery store and made an assumption.  Thankfully I was right!  This is cherry flavor syrup and a milky topping that is popular in Japan.  I have no idea what it really is.
Here is my nice bowl of ice.  I know, this may seem really strange.
Here is my cute shave ice spoon.
Topped with syrup and milky stuff.  Yum!
Although not related to festivals, I have these pictures still and wanted to share.  A new Italian restaurant opened up at our nearest mall.  We were intrigued by the "bread buffet".  Yes, this place had all you can eat bread with your dinner.  They had this nice little display but they also had servers walking around with fresh, hot bread.
So cute!
These are little parmesan crackers and rolls.
I tried a few.  They were so good it was hard to limit them.
Then for dinner, Ryan had the lasagna.
I had a pasta dish with some mascarpone and veggies.  Yum, yum, yum!  I will definitely be going back!
Alright, here we are at the festival pictures.  This is at Nebuta festival in Aomori Japan.  This is one of the most well known festivals in Japan and it happens to be in a small town in a very remote area (it is the largest city near us).  

Here is what the website says about the festival:

Recognized as one of Japan’s Three Big Fire Festivals, the Aomori Nebuta Festival is renowned internationally and is designated as a significant intangible folk cultural asset of Japan.
During the festival, more than twenty large nebutas – large lantern floats decorated with human figures – are wheeled along the parade route in the city of Aomori. Ahead of each float, Nebuta dancers called haneto dance wildly to the hayashi music of the Nebuta Festival,making the summer night festival lively and exciting. The fantastic view of lantern-lit floats and the dancers’ shouts of “rasse rasse” are overwhelming. It certainly is a genuine fire festival of Japan.
The Aomori Nebuta Festival attracts as many as 3 million tourists a year.

This is definitely a festival not to be missed.  Luckily we have had the chance to attend twice now.  We get there a little early to check out the food.  Once the parade gets going it is hard to move around/switch sides of the road for 2 hours.  The parade goes around in a large square around the city.  The floats are all judged and the best wins a prize, and I believe a spot in the Nebuta museum.

I ended up having one of these amazing scallops.  Aomori is known for their scallops.  Both apples and scallops are among top agricultural products here (the prefecture is also known for squid and garlic).  This was probably the best scallop I have ever eaten!
Pretty soon the sun was setting and the parade was ready to get underway.  You can see that these floats are lit from inside.  The are constructed over the few months prior.  The construction is considered an art form.
Lots of people getting ready to march in the parade.

Playing their flutes.
This is the back of one of the floats.
A green tea bottle on a smaller float.
This was from JR (Japan Rail) and was a group of guys that dressed as a Shinkansen (bullet train).  They moved all around in line together.  It was pretty funny.
More people playing instruments and marching.
This is the JR float.
They are so intricate and very beautiful.

Asahi, which is a major beverage company in Japan.
Another float.

The parade goes on from 7-9, so at about 8:45 we made our way back to our car.  On the way I picked up these rice crackers with a sweet, sticky, syrup filling between them.  They seemed interesting, so I thought I would try.  Yep, definitely interesting!
It was so much fun and I am so glad we were able to go again.  The floats are amazing and the crowd is just insane to be a part of.  Tour groups from all over Japan are bused in.  This place is usually pretty quite and the road less traveled for tourists so it is great to see this place come to life for this major festival.

Last up, Ryan and I went for a nice drive along the Pacific coast, heading up towards Mutsu.  We were looking for one beach, but a missed turn took us a bot out of our way, which turned out to be fine since we got to see some cool things.  Here is a random fish statue.  If you look behind this there is the Pacific Ocean.
After we turned around we did find what is known as Sand Dollar Beach.  We knew we couldn't swim here, we just wanted to see the ocean.  Thankfully it isn't too far from where we live.

Some seagulls

And a very beautiful sunset.
I guess I will leave you with some surprise news.  My sister will soon be joining me in Japan.  More details to come!

QUESTIONS:  Have you been to any festivals this summer?  Are there any well known festivals in your town?  When was the last time you went to the beach?

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