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Nebuta

Less than a week after coming back to Japan, we were off to the city of Aomori for the annual Nebuta Festival. The festival draws people from all over Japan to see the bright giant floats lit up and carried down the streets of the city at night. Even better is that anyone can participate in the parade marching by renting a haneto yukata from any of the rental stores in the city.

Required wear is the yukata itself - straw hats, tabi socks, and slippers are optional (footwear is sold to the customer, not rented). Had I known that beforehand, I would have opted to participate in my Luna sandals as they're much more comfortable and secure on my feet. Those cheap straw sandals went to the trash after we were done for the night.

After getting dressed by the old grandmas running the shop, we stuffed our original clothes in a bag and checked it in the back of the store getting a claim ticket in return. By early evening, much of the downtown area was filled with wandering people wearing the same yukatas, buying beers and waiting for the event to begin after sunset. When the floats began to enter the starting area of the parade route, we jumped in between floats and got ready to jump and go down the roads along with thousands of other participants.

Nebuta participants do not march but rather dance and jump to the beat of the drums while chanting "rassera, rassera." The Haneto in haneto yukata means "bouncing/jumping person" and the crowds between the floats were full of energy as the floats began to move. While everyone in the street was full of energy as we started, the parade route is rather long and by the time we were a little past the halfway point of the parade, the chanting volume went down and everyone's jumps weren't as high as when we started. By the end, a lot of people were feeling the effects of the parade and were walking - which abruptly ended as the floats went back to their storage garages and left people in the street to scatter in every direction to return their yukatas and get their drop bags back.

After we changed out of our clothes, we headed back to the apartment we stayed at for the night. By the time we arrived, a few groups of people had beaten us to the place and were already sleeping the couches, so I used my pack as a pillow and crashed on the hardwood.

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