Just where do Nebuta and Neputa Come from?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yui Yokoyama, right, and Edogawa University Prof. Toru Anami stand in front of nebuta festival posters.

When I think of summer in Aomori Prefecture, nebuta festivals always spring to mind.

Even though this year’s Aomori Nebuta Festival in Aomori was canceled, I wanted to learn more about it to get ready for next year’s. So, I sat down for an interview with Prof. Toru Anami, a folklorist at Edogawa University.

“Prof. Anami, give us the scoop on nebuta festivals!”

Yui Yokoyama: A few years ago was my first time seeing an Aomori Nebuta Festival up close and personal. I was overwhelmed because the floats were bigger and more imposing than I thought they’d be. How long have the festivals been held?

Anami: According to records, the festival began in the city of Hirosaki in 1722.

Yokoyama: That long ago!? By the way, I’ve noticed that the name of the festival is “nebuta” in Aomori and “neputa” in Hirosaki. Do both names have the same origin?

Anami: That much isn’t clear. However, both words are said to derive from the Nemuri-nagashi, which was a ritual to ward off drowsiness. It seems that at that time sleepiness interfered with summer work.

akb48 team 8 yokoyama
Yui Yokoyama
Born on Feb. 22, 2001. She takes pride in being the leader of the 48 dance group and once taking center stage during a music show.