Centuries before the city of Mutsu ever exited, during the Edo Period, Tanabu Shrine was a critical religious and administrative center within the Nambu feudal domain. The annual grand festival that takes place from August 18 to 20 is called the Tanabu Festival. The origins of the festival are unknown; an entry was found mentioning the Tanabu Festival in the 1793 records of Masumi Sugae, leading historians to believe that the festival began at a much earlier date.
Reminiscent of the famous Gion Festival in Kyoto, amidst the festive music, the large, ornately decorated two-storied carts are pulled down the streets in a lively, colorful procession. The climax of the festival occurs at 11p.m. on the night of August 20, at the farewell parting of the five carts, when each cart returns to its own neighborhood to wait until next year’s festival. Another highlight of the festival is assembled crowd of spectators and participants, one can sense in their gaiety a stubbornness, an unwillingness to let the summer end.