Celebrated in early August annually in Akita City, the Akita Kanto Festival is believed to have roots from the Edo era, during the 18th century. One of three biggest Natsu Matsuri (summer festivals) in the Tohoku area, the Akita Kanto Festival is held in wishes for a good harvest. The Kanto Festival offers an impressive display of strength, balance, and endurance as participants walk and balance bamboo poles carrying 24 – 46 lanterns of varying sizes. Lantern poles varying from 16 to 50 feet, weighing as heavy as 110 pounds illuminate the night, balanced on palms, hips, shoulders, backs, and even foreheads.
Drums and flutes begin to play followed by candle-lit lanterns balanced on poles filling the streets after sundown as spectators cheer the festivities on. During the daytime, competitions are held between solo and group performances. Guests of the Kanto Museum may learn about the history and technique of this celebrated tradition, and even try to balance a Kanto pole.