Sailors to share in the fun of Japan's largest festival
September 5, 2003
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Sailors will spend the weekend heaving a gigantic float through a nearby town during one of northern Japan’s largest and most famous festivals.
“It’s like a big Mardi Gras,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jose Sabiniano, a mess management specialist and the Navy’s organizer for the event.
For the fifth year, sponsors of the Kunizakai Matsuri, or Borderline Festival, have invited sailors to join in the two-day evening event highlighting nearly a dozen other festivals from the three participating prefectures in northern Honshu.
It’s designed to give visitors a taste of the celebrations around the region by featuring the best floats, dancers and musicians from those festivals.
“It’s a really good chance for the tourists and the local people to see the leading festivals,” said Kazuo Kobayashi, senior director of the international tourist department for the Komaki Grand Hotel in Misawa, an event co-sponsor.
The festival is a whirlwind of colorful costumes and brilliant parades, giving it a Carnival-like atmosphere, Kobayashi said.
There’s the display of dangling lanterns atop 50-foot bamboo poles from the Lantern Festival and musicians from the Ohyu Big Drum Festival, both from Akita. Other features include the Chicken Dance, Love Song Dance and Kosaka Star Festival
Aomori Prefecture, where Misawa is located, offers a float from its famous Nebuta Festival, which the sailors will push.
“It’s huge,” Sabiniano said. “You need 30 to 40 people just to move it.”
The participants come from a variety of commands at Misawa Naval Air Facility, part of Misawa Air Base.
To reward their hard labor pushing the giant two-wheeled float, sailors will be treated to a meal at Towadaka Grand Hotel. They also get a glimpse into Japanese culture.
Along with floats, the festival includes fireworks and parades of traditional dancers and Japanese drummers.
It takes place in the Lake Tawada town of Yasuniya, about 60 miles from Misawa, which sits on the border of Aomori and Akita prefectures.
The festival started 22 years ago to bring attention and tourists to the region. About 40,000 people are expected to attend this year, Kobayashi said.
The festival is interactive — visitors, including Americans, can jump in and join the dances and parades.
“You can participate,” Sabiniano said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
If you go
• The Kunizakai Festival runs from 6:50-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday near Lake Tawada in Yasuniya, about 60 miles from Misawa. 1• The town and lake straddle the border of Aomori and Akita prefectures.• The floats and parades will appear in the first hour each night.• U.S. sailors are accompanying the Nebuta float from Aomori.