The annual Aomori Nebuta Festival is famous in Japan. The Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse lets you experience some aspects of the festival if you missed it.
The centrepiece of the museum are the four full-sized floats from the most recent summer festival. They are replaced every year.
The modern nebuta lantern floats are transported around the festival on a truck and cost several thousand dollars to handcraft. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early days of the festival, about thirty men carried a doll lantern made of Japanese paper pasted on the frame of bamboo. Later, in the 1920s, a portable float became popular. After the Second World War, lights were installed instead of candles in wire structured floats and artists could express more details. The size of the modern float is determined by the width of the street and the height to an electric wire.
Some of the exhibitions show you the wire/wood/paper construction:
The floats all tell a story, usually from Japanese or Chinese mythology. Here’s one describing a float in the museum:
Tamuramaro Sakanoueno pursued the leader of the Emishi faction, Takamaru, who had fled to Mount Iwaki. He cornered him at Yawatasaki in Onoe (Present day Hirakawa City), where he was finally able to dispatch him. Sometime later, Tamuramaro was leading troops. When he reached a swamp called “Gandomari,” Takamaru suddenly reappeared as an evil spirit and started attacking his men. Tamuramaro swiftly unsheathed his sword and made quick work of Takamaru once again.To lay Takamaru’s spirit to rest, Tamuramaro decided to build a shrine dedicated to Bishamonten, the guardian of the north. He made his way through a deep forest and planted his beloved whip that was crafted from a Wisteria tree in the ground at the site of the shrine to serve as a landmark for its location. Branches and roots began to sprout from the whip, eventually growing into a magnificent wisteria tree whose light purple flowers in full bloom consumed the landscape.Eventually, this place become known as the village where wisteria (fuji) blooms (saki), “Fujisaki.”