Like holding a Japanese festival in your hand.

Summer is the season for Japanese festivals, and Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture is home to one of the most famous: the Neputa Matsuri (“Neputa Festival”). Designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan in 1980, this festival is held over six nights and one day during the first week of August every year, and is famous for its taiko drums and brightly lit, fan-shaped floats featuring famous characters from history, mythology, and kabuki theatre plays.

Closely related to the Nebuta Festival held in Aomori City, which is high in energy due to the fact that it celebrates a preparation for combat, the Neputa Festival is less frenetic, as it depicts troops successfully returning from battle. Said to have originated from a traditional event that used lit lanterns to prevent a sleep demon from making farmers drowsy as they worked through the summer nights, the Neputa Festival retains its magical aura to this day, attracting over a million visitors every year.

It’s a fantastic festival that everyone should experience at least once in their lives, but for those unable to attend, there’s now a way you can enjoy the magic of the matsuri at home, thanks to a special series of craft kits created by Sato Kogei, a screen printing company in Aomori City.

Those who stop by the office are in for a real treat, because down by the main entrance around the side you’ll find…

▼…a gacha capsule machine! 

Hidden beside the otherwise ordinary-looking office building, this is a gacha machine you won’t find anywhere else in Japan, as it’s exclusive to the premises. What it sells is equally rare, as it contains two of the company’s top-selling craft kits — the  “Neputa” for 1,000 yen (US$6.23) and the “Goldfish Neputa” for 500 yen.

▼ The 1,000-yen gacha only takes 500-yen coins, but if you visit on a weekday during business hours, staff inside can exchange your money for the right coins.

There are three types of “Neputa” and five types of “Goldfish Neputa” in the gacha machines, and when we spun the dial, we were lucky enough to get the most popular designs.

As these are craft kits, the capsules only hint at what the finished design will look like, because there’s a fair bit of assembly involved.

▼ The instructions are printed in Japanese on one side and English on the other.

While first-time model-makers might feel daunted by the instruction leaflet, there’s no need to feel intimidated as the process is straightforward, and the parts are kept to a minimum for ease of assembly.

The company sells craft kits in various sizes, but these are small enough to be sold in gacha machines, so are perfect for those new to the hobby.

▼ The parts are already cut, so you can assemble them straight away.

The parts slot together perfectly, snapping in place firmly, and though extra adhesives aren’t necessary here, you could use glue for stronger reinforcement.

The main structure comes together in minutes, and once you apply the paper parts, the familiar shape of the float comes to life.

Pasting the picture on the fan part completes the project, and the papers are pre-cut so you don’t even need scissors or a cutter.

Popping the included LED light into the float gives it a glow that makes it look exactly like the real-life neputa floats, only in adorable miniature form!

The festivities wouldn’t be complete without a goldfish lantern, as these are often displayed in local hotels and public facilities in early August, and are also held by children during the festival.

At 500 yen, this kit is half the price of the float version, and is easier to assemble, with fewer parts.

Simply follow the instructions to snap the pre-cut pieces of wood together, being careful to place them in the correct position.

▼ Then paste the paper parts on…

▼ …and your cute goldfish will soon be complete!

While the craft kits look beautiful as they are, they glow with an extra dash of magic once lit up at night.

The included LED lights give off a warm festival-like glow, creating the perfect atmosphere. The paintings themselves are also special, as they’re painted by Toshika Yamatani, a real Neputa artist.

With these adorable lanterns, you can easily transform any room into a festival venue, and if you listen closely, you can almost hear the festival music.

▼ You can always play videos of the festival on YouTube in the background to get the true music.

The Neputa floats have a vibrant kagamie (front picture) that contrasts with an elegant miokuri (back picture), and this miniature version is an exquisite replica.

It’s a stunning way to bring the magic of a Japanese summer festival home with you, and you don’t even have to travel to Aomori for it, as the company sells their entire craft kit range online. If you can make it to Aomori, though, you’ll have the added fun of trying the rare gacha machine, and with so much to enjoy in the region, it’s worth travelling to outside of summer as well!

Store information
Sato Kogei / サトウ孔芸
Address: Aomori-ken, Aomori-shi, Namioka Oaza, Gohonmatsuba Kurodaira 31
Open: Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Related: Sato Kogei Instagram, Twitter
Photos ©SoraNews24

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