The Tsukuba Matsuri Picture Post 2011

By Donald Ash | Japanese Festivals & Ceremonies

Better late than never I always say. I did have a chance to go to this year’s Tsukuba Matsuri on August 29th, 2011. This year was pretty cool because I was able to get closer tho the Nebuta* floats than I ever have. I didn’t get very many night time shots, but the floats were the same as last year’s Tsukuba Matsuri. I even got to take a few pictures with some of the guys who were pushing my favorite floats. In the last Tsukuba Matsuri video that I made, I was able to get better night time shots, but this time around, my daytime shots were better. There was still the same great food: takoyaki, okonomyaki, yakisoba, yakitori and lots of other grilled food (remember? the word yaki or やき means grilled). I didn’t want perfectly good food to go to waste…so I spent a little bit to partake in the delicious repast.
*ねぶた (Nebuta) means nighttime festival. The Nebuta floats are quite famous in Aomori and it’s easy to see why.

Although this year was cool in some ways, there was a bit of bad as well, namely with the Nebuta. For some reason two of the most famous floats kept malfunctioning. The smoke-breathing dragon float kept collapsing during the final night, and just really put a damper on things. Another float shorted out and wouldn’t light up during the night time show. It was the first time since I’ve been in Tsukuba, that I saw a Nebuta float have to be removed from the parade 🙁 .

Despite the float malfunctions, people were still in the same great spirits. Japanese festivals have that effect on people. The hundreds of laughing, eating, dancing, omikoshi-carrying, costume-wearing, kimono & yukata-donning people make the Tsukuba Matsuri, end of summer festival, what it is in the first place. This is hands down my favorite event in Tsukuba and I want to share some of the photos I took with you:

Tsukuba Matsuri 2011 Photos

Here it comes! The oh-so-famous yet oh-so-heavy omikoshi お神輿 (portable shrine).

Loads of people carrying the omikoshi. I think they have so many people because the thing is so blasted heavy. People have to carry in shifts. Some of the guys were really getting into it, though. The omikoshi doesn't just move through the parade, it dances through it on the shoulders of the most die-hard, matsuri enthusiasts.

There were quite a few moving drum contraptions. Drums are HUGE part of any Japanese festival!

Bring on the drums!!

I like to call this one the 'Tora' or tiger Nebuta float.

This float looks amazing at night! The way push it into the procession, you can't see the peacock at all until they turn it around. It's a beautiful surprise.

We'll call this one the 'Big Ass Drum' float...for obvious reasons 😀

The 'Big Ass' Drum in motion!!

One of the children's floats in the Tsukuba Matsuri parade

The floats are just so intricately designed.

Nebuta, up close and personal

Nebuta, up close and personal-Nebuta Strikes Back


My favorite nighttime festival float is a toss up between this smoke-breathing, sword-skewered dragon and the peacock.

This is closest I have ever gotten to this float. WOW!

Two of my new float-toting buddies

Gotta love the weird Tsukuba Matsuri costumes!

Yep...more costumes 🙂

This particular float seemed to be on all of the pre-event posters in Tsukba's neighboring cities.

The daytime float procession.

Everybody's favorite contorted-faced, fire god...Hyottoko!

Thanks for looking! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Donald Ash

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
  • Sean Patton

    Awesome pictures, Donald! Thanks for posting them. I’m looking forward to eventually seeing the Neputa Matsuri in Hirosaki-shi, Aomori. I guess I’ll have to wait for next year, but it will be an epic occasion! I’ll make sure my girlfriend takes me, since that’s right next to her hometown.

    The detail on those floats is absolutely insane. I have a huge amount of respect for artists capable of creating works like that (not so much for the post-modern ones who put a teacup on a table and claim the photo is artistic).

    Seeing these pictures is getting me excited, since my flight to Japan (after 7 long years of planning/re-planning and re-re-planning) is in less than two weeks.

    Thanks again!
    – Sean

    • Donald Ash

      Thanks, Sean. I’m excited for you. I know you’re going to enjoy being back.

  • Anthony

    Definitely looks like a good time. The artwork, dedication and attention to detail to those floats is insane.

    • Donald Ash

      Right, Anthony!?!? I was waiting for that tiger float to come to life and attack me.

  • Nanami

    Aaah! This looks like so much fun! ^____^ I wanna go!

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