I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Nebuta festival songs

Gotta love that Tachineputa face!

Y'know, when it comes to the different categories of enka, I only note the usual fair - drinking (the hard stuff) to forget the one that got away, drinking to celebrate, drinking because you miss home, husband-wife relations, prefecture landmarks natural and man-made. But there is one that I always leave a dark corner of my mind even though I listen to some of them quite often; ironic, isn't it? This category of songs features the various festivals in Japan. One such example is the Nebuta festival (ねぶた祭) of Aomori.

I hadn't known what the Nebuta festival was, especially when first taking a look at Ikuzo Yoshi's (吉幾三) discography - there's this song called "NEBUTA of Japan". I thought it was another of the singer's weird connotations for something until I looked it up. According to, the summer festival, that's held from the 2nd to the 7th of August (so it's still going on as I write this), is known for people parading around the city hefting gigantic lantern floats of colourful and often intimidating-looking characters. And it is considered one of the 3 great festivals of the Tohoku region, along with Akita prefecture's Kanto festival and Sendai's Tanabata.

Coming to today's topic. Since I am aware of a couple of enka that feature the Nebuta festival, I'd like to write about them.

Ikuzo Yoshi -- Tachineputa (立佞武多)

Now, it wouldn't be a list of Nebuta songs without something from good ol' Yoshi, who hails from the festival's prefecture of origin, would it? However, rather than the usual Nebuta, Yoshi's tune centers around the Goshogawara Tachineputa (五所川原立佞武多), which is basically his hometown's version of the festival. As you can see, Aomori has a few, slight variations of the festival in certain regions, but most notable is the one from it's capital city, if I'm not wrong. Though the only difference I can pick out from these variations is that the fellas carrying the floats yell something different. For the Tachineputa in Goshogawara, they scream out "Yatemare" instead of the usual "Rassera".

Here's Yoshi singing it at last year's Tachineputa.

As for the song "Tachineputa", Yoshi added some rock into the fun, rousing, festive music, and there is still an enka-ness to it made by the occasional strumming of the shamisen and the thumping of the taiko at the start. "Tachineputa" was released as Yoshi's 37th single on April 25th 2001, and he has been singing it every year since then at the festival in Goshogawara. In fact, he just did so last night. With Yoshi being all gruff and at the grass-roots level, I find that he's the perfect guy to be singing this song. I can just imagine him as one of those lifting the floats.

Unfortunately, I could only find the abridged version of "Nebuta".

Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし) -- Nebuta (ねぶた)

Now, imagine Yoshi's "Tachineputa", but a lot more boisterous, fiercer, manlier, and more traditional... sort of. That's exactly what Hosokawa's "Nebuta" is. The amount of shamisen and taiko are increased by at least two-fold, and like most of Hosokawa's songs, it has got the electric guitar screaming away in the back. Unlike the former song, "Nebuta" seems to be referring to the festival as a whole, or at least the one from Aomori City since the backup singers and himself have been chanting "Rassera" throughout. "Nebuta" came out not too long ago in 2011 and it written by Rei Nakanishi (なかにし礼) and, to my surprise, composed by Keisuke Hama (浜圭介). Wow, I did not expect him to be the one responsible for such a raucous tune.

That's all for now. Besides these two, I'm quite sure there are many other songs featuring the Nebuta festival, it's just that I'm not all that familiar with them.


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    Just finished some translations on those festivals recently, and yep, it's not a Japanese summer without some of those rousing festival enka. And Ikuzo is the guy to lead the charge!

    1. Hi J-Canuck,

      Translations on festivals? If you don't mind me asking, what is that for?

    2. Hey there.

      Well, for the past few months, one of my clients has asked me to do some translations on the various tourist destinations and events in Japan, so I did a few on the Tohoku area.

    3. Hi J-Canuck,

      I see, so you do translations for stuff like that. It's pretty looks interesting, in my opinion, as you get to read about those things before translating them.


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