Entrancing Emburi

The long winter nights are slowly and gradually growing shorter. Spring is still far away but approaching in Aomori. February is just a few days away, and although it is the coldest month in terms of temperature, things start to heat up a little bit in Aomori, with many winter events and festivals being held all over the prefecture. One such event is Emburi, a festival like tradition of Hachinohe City and the surrounding area. It’s hard to describe Emburi, but if I had to choose a word, I would probably call it entrancing. Rather than talk about it though, I think it would be better if you watched it instead!
How about it? Entrancing? Emburi is said to have originated from a type of Dengaku, a type of rural agricultural ceremony including music and dance. Performances of this art form are held for 4 days from February 17th to February 20th every year in Hachinohe City. Men adorn tall hats reminiscent of horses, an important animal to the agriculture, lifestyle, and culture of the area, the Nambu Region.
Emburi Horse Hats

Details of horses and agriculture practices can still be seen on Emburi hats.

Emburi was designated as an important intangible cultural property by the Japanese national government in 1979, but its history goes back much further, approximately 800 years. The name Emburi is mostly a dialectal variant name for a small rake like agricultural tool called “eburi” in Japanese which is used to pound the ground stirring the spirits of the spring and ensure a bountiful harvest in the fall of the coming year.
Other dances and performances also make up the entire tradition of Emburi. Young children also participate by dressing up and dancing in cute and comical performances. The boy below is dressed up as the god Ebisu, the god of fisherman and good luck in a dance where he reels in a large auspicious red snapper.

A little boy plays the role of the lucky god Ebisu.


Two girls dance as the god of wealth, Daikoku.

It is really amazing that the people of Hachinohe have kept this wonderful tradition alive for so long. They definitely have something to be proud about!

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