Many festivals in Akita are connected with harvests and rice. Akita is famous for Komachi rice, which is exported all over the world. This is also used in sake. Our delicious sake goes well with the fresh seafood and wild vegetables, so you can try all sorts of different food depending on the season.
The Kanto Matsuri in August each year celebrates the abundance of our rice harvests. From our newly harvested rice we have some famous local cuisines including "Kiritanpo" which can be eaten with miso paste or in a hot pot (nabe – pronounced nah bay), depending on the season.
Just a 15 minute stroll westwards from JR Akita station and one block after the Asahi River bridge, is the Kanto Festival Center, or “Neburinagashi kan” in Japanese. Even if you cannot be here for the festival in August, you can see inside a permanent exhibition of Kanto, the one of the most famous festivals in Akita. From April to October, there are live Kanto demonstrations on weekends and public holidays from 1pm to 140pm.
Kanto is made of a bunch of paper lanterns hanging off the bamboo pole. Each paper lantern represents a grain of rice. The longest one is 12 meters tall and weighs 50 kilograms. In the festival, the men can hold Kanto in the palm of their hand, or on their shoulder, waist or forehead. I learned so much from the staff there about these different techniques. Some people just managed to hold it with support from the staff. I don’t know how they hold it in the festival; they must be so strong and skillful. It was daunting to me to try, even with no candles inside the kanto. If you are strong, why don’t you give it a try? Otherwise, there was a little trick photo that you can take pretending as if you were holding Kanto.
On the other floors, there were other things such as figures and actual demonstrations of folk entertainment and comedies. They were pretty interesting to watch and very much evocative of an earlier time. So we just appreciate them and compare to today's mass media entertainment.
Luckily the day I visited there were not many people so I could have a little chat with the staff. They are so sweet! They gave the place a very friendly atmosphere, so to be honest, that was the highlight of my visit.
The opening hours are from 9:30 a.m. ~ 4:30 pm. This building is located five min away from Akarenga kyodo Kan and if you buy admission fee for both it costs only 250 yen, saving you 50 yen compared to two separate tickets. I recommend you to visit in the afternoon a hour or two before closing because after 4:30 p.m. you can walk along with the river to enjoy wonderful local gourmet and sake, such as Washoku Kanraku and Akita Dining Kamakuraya.