The Kitakami Michinoku Geino Festival is dedicated to performing arts. It features the rich cultural heritage of Iwate but more specifically Kitakami. For three days, on the first weekend of August, the streets and public spaces come to life with a wide variety of dances, music and parades culminating with a flotilla of paper lanterns and fireworks.
It's amazing that I have lived only a few kilometers from Kitakami for over a dozen years and go there almost weekly and yet I hadn't seen their festival. I somehow assumed it was similar to the Hanamaki and Morioka festivals. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The Kitakami Michinoku Geino Festival is described as a performing arts festival and it delivers. There are several types of dancers that perform, the Kagura dancers, seen all over Japan it's a dance to the Gods, Onikenbai, Demon dancers with swords, Shishi Odori or Deer dancers with drums and also the less common Wolf dancers. All of them considered an important part of Japan's cultural and folkloric heritage. Unlike other local festivals that encourage citizen participation, these require years of practice as they are somewhat sacred dances. This is another part of the festival, the Mikoshi parade where locals can participate.
Most events with locals take place near the Sakurano Department store about 500 meters from the station. Unlike other local festivals where most activities happen at one place, this festival is spread out at key locations around the city. Some events take place in front of the station, others at the Suwa Shrine and larger events in the streets not far from the station. Some planning is required to see the events that you choose. Some of the dances will be performed more than once at separate locations, I would recommend getting the guide before going to the festival. You can find more information at the Kitakami City web page.
Some events not to miss are the big Onikenbai group dance on Saturday night, it's called "daigunbu. You'll see over a hundred dance groups performing simultaneously to traditional music on the main street in front of the station. That's extremely impressive. On the last day, Sunday, there is a flotilla of paper lanterns launched on the Kitakami River near a place called Tenshochi at the same time they have the closing fireworks. The event lasts about one hour and half. The best spots to watch are close to the river on the west side. It's better to plan ahead, the spots near the river cost 3000-4000 yen including parking if you buy tickets in advance and 9000-10000 yen if you buy on the day. There are also a few hotels near the river but I imagine they are fully booked on that day, so again, better plan in advance.
The area on the east side of the Kitakami River and the closest bridge are off-limits for safety reasons. I, and hundreds of people found a great place to view the fireworks near Route 14 east of the river. We couldn't see the paper lanterns but it was a perfect place to view the fireworks.