This “Festival of Tohoku Bonds” continues to pay homage to six of northern Japan’s most important annual festivals all at one time and one place.

The six northeastern prefectures that make up Japan’s main island of Honshu are an often overlooked choice for travel despite boasting some of the most pristine natural scenery and diverse cultural traditions in the entire country. The region did come into international focus under tragic circumstances in 2011, when one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck off the east coast of Miyagi Prefecture and the resulting tsunami also created a nuclear disaster in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture. The people of Tohoku subsequently astounded the world with their undying spirit in spite of unbelievable destruction and loss throughout their home region.

One of the earliest responses of the Tohoku people to join together, lift each other’s spirits, and show support for recovery came in the form of the Tohoku Rokkonsai (“Tohoku Six Souls Festival”), which was first held in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) a mere four months following the disasters. This mega-festival showcased six of the major summer festivals celebrated annually throughout the region–Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, Akita’s Kanto Matsuri, Iwate’s Sansa Odori, Yamagata’s Hanagasa Matsuri, Miyagi’s Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, and Fukushima’s Waraji Matsuri–while rotating the sponsoring city each year until all six capital cities in Tohoku had played host.

▼ A welcome sign for the Sendai Tanabata Festival just outside of Sendai Station in August 2017


When the Tohoku Rokkonsai made its final stop in Aomori City in 2016, people realized they weren’t quite ready to let go of such an important tradition just yet. Thus, a spiritual successor was born: the Tohoku Kizuna Festival.

Kizuna means “bonds” in Japanese, a concept which reflects the festival’s mission of strengthening the bonds between people, aiding in continued reconstruction efforts, and demonstrating gratitude for all the support shown to Tohoku over the past seven years. The inaugural event was held in Sendai last year, and this year it’s Morioka (Iwate Prefecture)’s turn, an order which mirrors the original trajectory of the Tohoku Rokkonsai.

▼ This year’s festival logo. The illustration on the right side cleverly condenses the six festivals’ most important cultural artifacts into a map of the Tohoku region.

The 2018 festival will be held this coming weekend, June 2-3, centering on the Morioka Castle Site Park (also known as Iwate Park) at the following times:

Saturday, June 2: 10 am-7 pm (parade from 1:30-4 pm)
Sunday, June 3: 10 am-5 pm (parade from 12:30-3 pm)

As the centerpiece of the entire festival, the parade will commence in front of the Morioka City Hall and advance down the main road. This procession will highlight snippets of all six of the individual festivals, from the giant floats of Nebuta Matsuri to the synchronized dancing drummers of the host city’s Sansa Odori, in an essentially six-for-one amazing deal. For a refresher on the meaning and symbolism of the six individual festivals, please refer to this earlier piece.

Event organizers predict a total of 300,000 people to visit the festival over two days. Morioka is about two hours and ten minutes from Tokyo via bullet train, so it’s even possible to plan a day trip if you’re looking for something to do this weekend outside of the big city. The Tohoku Kizuna Festival is definitely one of the best ways to get a taste of local Japanese culture not able to be experienced in the capital region and to show your support for an amazingly strong base community of people.

Source: Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri (Japanese, English)
Featured image: Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri (edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images (unless noted): Tohoku Kizuna Matsuri