Japan Day 17: The Magnificent Kanto Festival

It is past midnight as I write this. The days are flying by so fast and the nights are filled with festival excitement. 

Yesterday I hung out at home in the air conditioned living room until the afternoon. I quickly dressed in yukata and my host mom did my hair. Young girls still like to wear yukata to summer festivals, especially with their boyfriends. I decided to wear it this one time even though it was so hot so I could take a nice picture. We went to meet the lady I stayed with in Chiba at a nearby hotel because she came to see the festival for one night. I wish I could have spent more time with her and her family, but her tour was very short.  

After greeting them at the hotel, we returned home to get ready. Every day we leave the house at 5 PM to walk to the meeting place. Different Kanto groups line the streets and stop at certain numbered places and do tricks. The streets are line with bleachers just like for a parade. All the stations and bleachers are numbered. Companies and other sponsors can start their own Kanto team. Teams consist of taiko drummers, flute players, and the men/boys who do the Kanto. I don’t know the history of this festival nor do I have the energy to research it at the moment, so read other blogs if you want to know about that. 


The festival officially starts at 7 and goes to about 9, but ends at like 8::0 after the teams stop at 3 places. At 8:30 people take pictures with the Kanto lanterns and whatnot. We waited for a long time while everyone was preparing stuff. Ate some dinner at the nearby festival pop up shops. 

Once the festival started it was absolutely amazing. It is so much fun to see people smile when the lanterns go up as they are amazed at the beyond sugoi talent or balancing a lantern that is several stories high on your hand, head, shoulder, or waist. My host brother and host dad are so good!! I took better videos and photos with my camera, but I will just add the iPhone ones here. The pictures don’t do the festival justice but it will have to do for now.  

Kanto is definitely a team effort. You have the flute players playing the music, the taiko drummers keeping the beat, the people doing the Kanto and the spotters/people ready to take over, and the supportive family members who give the performers water and cheer them on. If the lanterns fall, everyone is super supportive and immediately helps get them up and going again. There isn’t competition between teams (or is there) and everyone is super friendly. It is fun watching them show off their skills and various tricks (ie. Holding fan, umbrella, a child, etc.).

After the official end time, there is a “return Kanto” festival. Basically the group returns to their headquarters down a narrow road with lots of bars on either side and does more tricks. It is about 1.5 hours. Super long but super fun!  

After the festival it was like 11PM but we were hungry so we went to Korean BBQ after. Guess I will be midnight snacking a lot this week. There was more I wanted to share but I am too tired…


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