Monday, July 25, 2011

Sendai's Rokkonsai Festival

Tohoku, the northern region of Japan's main island, Honshuu, is made up of six prefectures. These are Miyagi (where Sendai is located), Yamagata, Iwate, Akita, Aomori and Fukushima. Each of the prefectures has its own unique summer festival, the most famous of which are Sendai's Tanabata and Aomori's Nebuta. Recently the Tohoku region decided to bring all six festivals together in Sendai as a morale-booster and way to bring in some money through tourism. It was called the "Rokkonsai Festival".

Origami decorations which line the streets of Sendai during the Tanabata Festival in August.
One of the lit-up floats from Aomori's Nebuta Festival in August. Photo from Wikipedia.

I was pretty excited about the opportunity to see parts of all six festivals, especially Nebuta which is held pretty far north of here and a little difficult to get to. My friends and I decided the festival was also a great opportunity to dress up in yukata, or cotton kimono which are typically worn in the summer. We got all dressed up and headed downtown for the event.

Yukata, cotton kimono, are popular at summer festivals. They're cute, but hot in over 30 degree weather!
We took the subway and encountered one of the worst crowds I've ever seen in the station when we arrived. It took about 30 minutes just to battle our way out, and the heat was pretty horrible (especially in a yukata!). By the time we finally made it out, the crowd outside was just as bad; it was nearly impossible to see anything. Then we found out that the parade had been canceled due to the crowds and too many people becoming sick with heatstroke. (In fact, there were more ambulances present than there were festival floats.)

That is the closest I got to one of the Nebuta floats.
We took a few photos in our yukata and decided we'd had enough of the crowds; we spent the evening eating a nice dinner with our friends instead.

The festival was a big disappointment, especially for those people who came up to Sendai from other parts of Japan just for the event. The next day the mayor of Sendai actually apologized for the mess in the newspaper. According to the mayor, only 80,000 people were expected to come but the actual turn-out was 130,000. The location chosen was much too small for such a big event; I can't imagine it would have been comfortable even with just the expected 80,000.

I appreciate the "support Tohoku" events and I think bringing tourists into the area is a great idea, but I do wish that those events would be a little better organized. Sendai's next big festival, Tanabata, is coming up in just a couple weeks from now, so let's hope that one goes more smoothly.


  1. I know I've said this before, but it's truly lame that they canceled the Festival.

  2. That must have been discouraging! But your outfit is super cute, so it's not all bad! :D

  3. Thanks! Hopefully I'll get a chance to wear the yukata again this summer for a real festival. :)