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4 Lesser-Known Tohoku Summer Festivals

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While the Tohoku area may be best known for its “Three Great Festivals,“ there are a number of other notable summer festivals worth checking out in Japan's northern regions!

1. Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival (Iwate)

The Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival is observed in Takisawa Village and Morioka City on the second Saturday of June.

Horses have traditionally been highly cherished in this agricultural region. At the festival, horses are decorated with colorful saddles, accessories and bells and led by their proud owners to Sozen Shrine to pray for their longevity. The festival was designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in 1978, and the sound of the bells of Chagu Chagu Umakko was selected as one of the “100 Japanese Soundscapes” in 1996.

2. Soma-Nomaoi (Fukushima)

This tradition started more than 1,000 years ago, when the local warriors released wild horses as training for military techniques. Held on the last Saturday, Sunday and Monday of July, the Soma-Nomaoi features horsemen in full samurai gear riding through the streets of Minamisoma City, with highlights including a 1,000-meter horse race and hundreds of riders competing to collect shrine flags shot in the air with fireworks.

3. Hachinohe Sansha Taisai (Aomori)

With roughly 300 years of history, the Hachinohe Sansha Taisai is the Hachinohe area’s largest festival, and has been designated an important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset.

Held every year from July 31 to August 4, the festival features gorgeous floats with open picture scrolls paraded through the streets. Portable shrines (mikoshi) from three different shrines as well as 27 floats with themes like myths, legends and kabuki stories are paraded from August 1 to 3, and can be seen illuminated the nights before and after the festival. The lively event is full of whistles and the energetic cheers of children.

4. Hanagasa Matsuri (Yamagata)

Vigorous shouts and the heroic tone of the Hanagasa taiko drum, gorgeously decorated floats, and Hanagasa dancers in ravishing costumes with hats in hand perform through the main street of Yamagata City. This brilliant festival, held from August 5 to 7, has been rising in prominence as a major festival of the Tohoku region. Find out more here!

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