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The Kanto Matsuri (竿燈まつり, "pole lantern festival") is a Tanabata related celebration in Akita City, held every year from August 3 to 6. The highlight of the festival is an impressive display of skill in which performers balance kanto (long bamboo poles) with arrays of paper lanterns attached to the end. The Kanto Matsuri together with Aomori's Nebuta Festival and Sendai's Tanabata makes up the three great festivals of the Tohoku Region.

The kanto poles come in different sizes with the largest measuring 12 meters, weighing 50 kilograms and carrying as many as 46 paper lanterns, lit by real candles. To the sound of drums, flutes and onlookers chanting "dokkoisho, dokkoisho", each kanto is hoisted up by a single performer who balance them on end using various techniques. The performers change every few minutes and gradually add extensions to the pole until the kanto are at their maximum height.

The main event of the festival, the Night Parades, are held nightly along Chuo Dori street in the center of the city. The various performing groups, carrying nearly 250 kanto poles, line up on the street, and when a signal is given, the poles are all raised up at once and the performers show off their skills. The event lasts about 90 minutes, and at the end of each night there is a 15 minute session during which the audience is invited to talk to the performers, take pictures and try their hand at hoisting up a kanto.

The performing area of Chuo Dori is nearly one kilometer long and there are plenty of places to sit on the sidewalk along the route. The ends of the closed off road offer a particularly spectacular view, but can be more crowded. Paid reserved seats are set up on the median of the road, and reservations can be made beginning a few months in advance up until the day of the event if not sold out. Naturally, it is more crowded on festival days that fall on a weekend.

The festival also has daytime events which are mainly held at Agora Plaza in front of the Seibu Department Store which are held from 10:00 to 17:00 on all days of the festival. One of the activities that visitors can participate in is lifting miniature kanto poles.

Additionally, Kanto Competitions are held during daytime on the last three days of the festival on the plaza around the Akita Museum of Art. Every kanto group fields one or two teams to compete in categories such as solo, group and performance set to music. The competitions are free to attend and no seating is provided. Also of interest is the Kanto Museum (or Neburinagashi-kan) where you can learn about the history of the festival and try out balancing a kanto pole yourself.

Getting there and around

The Kanto Matsuri's Night Parades are held along Chuo Dori street, about a 15 minute walk west of Akita Station. Daytime events are held at the Agora Plaza in front of Seibu Department Store, a five minute walk from the station, while the Kanto Competitions take place next to the Akita Museum of Art, a ten minute walk from the station. The Kanto Museum is about two blocks off of Chuo Dori street, about a 15 minute walk from the station.

How to get to and around Akita

Hours and Fees

Night Parades

Hours

Admission

Kanto Museum (Neburinagashi-kan)

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hotels around Akita

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    • Richmond Hotel Akita Ekimae
      Mid-range
      Located just a 7-minute walk from JR Akita Station, Richmond Hotel Akita Ekimae offers simple and modern guestrooms featuring free Wi-Fi and an en suite bathroom. Akita Museum of Art is also a 7-minute walk away. Each carpeted room comes with a flat-screen TV, a telephone and a fridge. Guests can make a cup of tea using an electric kettle and tea bags provided. The bathroom has a bath tub and free toiletries. Akita Ekimae Richmond Hotel offers free luggage storage services at the 24-hour front desk. Drinks vending machines and laundry facilities are available on site. Akita Airport is a 40-minute drive from the hotel. Senshu Park and Kubota Castle are located within a 10-minute walk. On-site restaurant Kagura offers a breakfast buffet featuring a variety of Japanese dishes. Other Japanese meals and local specialities are also available for lunch and dinner.
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    • Hotel Metropolitan Akita
      Luxury
      Directly connected to JR Akita Station and featuring free WiFi access throughout the property, Hotel Metropolitan Akita offers 2 restaurants, a bar and air-conditioned accommodation. All rooms are carpeted and equipped with a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator and an electric kettle. Some also come with a seating area where guests can relax. The private bathroom comes with a bathtub, free toiletries and a hairdryer. At Akita Metropolitan Hotel, guests can arrange for a soothing massage. The 24-hour front desk offers laundry, dry cleaning and luggage storage services. A variety of cuisine featuring fresh local produces can be enjoyed at Dining Manyo. Guests can also dine at one of the restaurants in the shopping and dining arcade of JR Akita Station. Akita Akarenga Kyodokan is an 8-minute drive away, while Omoriyama Zoo is an 18-minute drive from the hotel. Senshu Park can be walked to within just 6 minutes.
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    • Akita Castle Hotel
      Luxury
      Located a 7-minute walk from JR Akita Station, Akita Castle Hotel features 4 dining options and comfortable guest rooms with free WiFi. There are a 24-hour convenience store, a nail salon and other shops available on site. Each carpeted room is fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and a fridge. An electric kettle is also provided in the room. The private bathroom comes with a bath tub and free toiletries. Akita Castle Hotel provides 24-hour front desk services and room service meals. A laundry service is available for guests’ at an extra cost. Guests can also use free luggage storage or enjoy shopping at one of the on-site stores. The hotel is a 40-minute limousine bus ride or a 30-minute drive from Akita Airport. Senshu Park is a 5-minute walk away. On-site Japanese restaurant Kurumaya serves delicately prepared seasonal dishes. Chinese meals can be enjoyed at Totenko, while guests can sip their favourite drinks at Bar Lotus on the 8th floor.
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    • Akita Onsen Plaza
      Mid-range
      Located a 15-minute drive from JR Akita Station, Akita Onsen Plaza boasts various hot spring baths and a sauna. Guests can savour carefully prepared seasonal Japanese dishes. Free WiFi is provided in all guest rooms. Each room features a flat-screen TV, a seating area and a private toilet. Bathroom is shared with other guests. Guests staying at Onsen Plaza Akita can unwind at the public bathing area. Luggage storage and on-site parking are available for free. Drinks vending machines are also provided for guests’ convenience. The ryokan is a 30-minute drive from Akita Airport. Shun-no-Sakana restaurant offers international dishes including Japanese, Chinese and Western.
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    • Dormy Inn Akita
      Mid-range
      Dormy Inn Akita is located opposite historical Senshu Park and is a 5-minute walk from JR Akita Station. Free internet access and a public bath are provided. Rooms at Dormy Inn Akita have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and a refrigerator. The en suite bathroom comes with a shower and toiletries. Guests can make use of the open-air public bath with natural hot spring water and the coin-operated laundry machines. Nearby attractions include Akita Museum of Art, Tazawa Lake and the Shirakami-Sanchi mountain range.
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    • Akita Hotel
      Mid-range
      Boasting 2 restaurants, a bar and a cafe, Akita Hotel is conveniently located a 3-minute walk from JR Akita Train Station. The simply decorated rooms offer free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV with pay-per-view channels. Carpeted rooms are fitted with an en suite bathroom, a desk and a refrigerator. Each feature an electric kettle, a green tea set and Yukata robes. A hairdryer, free toiletries and slippers are also available. Guests at View Hotel Akita can work out at the fitness centre, get a soothing massage or use the sauna, all at a surcharge. A variety of international meals are served at the restaurants. The Seibu Department Store is a 3-minute walk away, while both Senshu Park and Kubota Castle is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Omoriyama Zoo can be accessed within a 20-minute drive.
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    • Comfort Hotel Akita
      Mid-range
      A 2-minute walk from JR Akita Train Station, Comfort Hotel Akita welcomes guests with a cup of coffee, and treats them to free WiFi and a free breakfast buffet. Facilities include drinks vending machines and a launderette. Air-conditioned rooms are equipped with an LCD TV, a small fridge and an attached bathroom with toiletries. A coin-launderette is on site and photocopying services are offered at the front desk. Private parking is available on site and massages can be requested for an extra cost. A free breakfast buffet with bread is served at the lounge space. Akita Comfort Hotel is a 5-minute walk from Senshu Park and a 15-minute drive from Akita hot-spring area.
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    • Route Inn Grantia Akita Spa Resort
      Mid-range
      Boasting 5 hot-spring baths and a Korean sauna, Route Inn Grantia Akita Spa Resort is 1.5 km from JR Akita Train Station. Rooms include free internet, a full bathroom and satellite TV channels. Guests at Grantia Akita Spa Resort Route Inn stay in air-conditioned rooms with a tea maker and wood writing desk. Relaxation options include a soak in the bathtub and pay TV programs. Akita City Folk Traditions Hall (Neburi Nagashi Kan) is a 10-minute walk away, and Senshu Park is a 15-minute walk. A free shuttle runs between the hotel and Akita Station. Parking is free. A relaxation room with massage chairs is provided. Skin treatments are offered at the spa, or guests can try out a new style at the hair salon. Restaurants Hanano Yume Maguroya and Hanachaya offer Japanese cuisine.
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    • Hotel Route-Inn Akita Tsuchizaki
      Mid-range
      Only a 3-minute drive from JR Tsuchizaki Station, Hotel Route-Inn Akita Tsuchizaki features simple modern accommodations and a free breakfast buffet for all guests. Free wired internet is available in all rooms and relaxing massages can be requested for an extra cost. An LCD TV and an en suite bathroom are included in each air-conditioned room at the Tsuchizaki Route-Inn. The rooms come with a mini-fridge and an electric kettle with green tea. The hotel has a spacious public bath, a coin-launderette and a free-use internet computer. Dry cleaning and photocopying services are available at the front desk. Restaurant Hanachaya serves a daily breakfast buffet with Japanese and Western food. For dinner, Hanahanatei caters a wide range of Japanese favourites, from noodle and rice dishes to delicate sashimi fish. Hotel Route-Inn Akita Tsuchizaki is just a 5-minute stroll from Port Tower Selion, which offers panoramic views of the Sea of Japan and the city.
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    • Albert Hotel Akita
      Budget-friendly
      A 15-minute walk from JR Akita Station, the Albert Hotel offers Western-style accommodation, free Wi-Fi and shared laundry facilities. Rooms at Akita Hotel Albert are simple, yet comfortable. They are equipped with air-conditioning, a TV and a bathroom with a bathtub. Restaurant Hanagaki serves Japanese dishes, and drinks are also available at vending machines. Guests can use an internet PC for free, or browse the souvenir shop. The hotel is a 20-minute drive from both Port Tower Selion and the Akita Omoriyama Zoo.
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