Akita Kanto Matsuri, or pole lantern festival, is a Japanese festival celebrated in August, in the hope of an abundant harvest. Every year, a kanto (bamboo pole) of about eight metres in height with a number of cross poles attached to it, is adorned with 46 paper lanterns that are shaped liked rice bales. These poles are then carried around by the younger people in Japan in celebration of the five most important grains, namely wheat, rice, beans, foxtail millet, and Chinese millet.
On the day of the festival, youths dress up in short jackets, headbands, white tabi socks (split toe socks), and zori sandals. They take it in turns to hoist up the kanto one at a time, parading the streets to the energetic sound of drums and the melodic background music of flutes. This tradition of carrying the pole around the city roads becomes the highlight of the festival, especially in the night, when the lanterns glow bright in the dark of the dusk.
The sight of nearly fifty lanterns glowing in the streets is quite a sight, especially when seen from the rooftops where it is described as a spectacle as the tall poles look like moving buildings of light.
During the day, the festival is no less of a marvel. There are beautiful dances and traditional performances, as well as kanto demonstrations by trained artists as well as enthusiastic folk from the crowds who just want to have a bit of fun.
All in all, Akita Kanto Matsuri is a festival that promises enjoyment from the word “go”. Be sure to plan your trip to Japan around it!
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