These are gigantic paper lanterns stretched over a bamboo framework, although apparently metal is also being used to alleviate fire hazards. They were originally lit with candles, but these have been replaced by electrical lighting. Although somewhat gaudy in appearance at first glance, the craftsmanship and artistic ability involved is quite remarkable.
In 1944 and 1946 there were two large fires that destroyed the blueprints of how to make the neputa. It was thought that all knowledge of how to reproduce the neputa had been lost, but in 1996 some photographs and blueprints were found and since then artists and craftsmen have been busy recreating the neputa.
The museum housing the neputa of the photographs is four stories high. Tourists are taken to the top floor by elevator and can then circle the neputa down to the ground floor. At one point the walkways can be moved out of the way to allow the neputa to exit the building and be pulled up the streets during the yearly festivals. The people of Aomori are very proud of their neputa and facilities housing them can be seen in many places in the prefecture.
Click on Neputa to see photographs on Picasa.