5 Summer Festivals with Stunningly Beautiful Lantern Illuminations
People in Japan have used lanterns for festivals and rituals since long time ago. Lanterns used to be a special tool that only nobilities, samurai soldiers and other people of the upper classes were allowed to use but later became widely available to general public from around the middle of the Edo Period (mid-18th century). Here we will take a look at some of Japan’s major summer festivals which feature beautiful lantern illuminations. Enjoy the heart-warming lights of lanterns, which are symbolic to summer festivals of Japan. Photo: http://gakublo.com/
*The first 3 festivals listed below are known as the three major lantern festivals in Japan.
1. Nihonmatsu Chochin (Lantern) Festival
Location: Fukushima Prefecture
Period: October 4th – 6th, Every Year
Nihonmatsu Chochin Festival started about 370 years ago in 1643. From Nihonmatsu Shrine, the main venue of the festival, 7 festival floats will take to the streets and tour around the town. About 3,000 lanterns attached to each of the floats will color the night sky red. The festival is a little bit off-season as a summer event but the spirited shouts of young people carrying festival floats make this festival no less exciting and vigorous than any other summer festivals.
2. Akita Kanto Festival
Location: Akita Prefecture
Period: August 3rd – 6th, 2016
Akita Kanto Festival is a summer festival in the Tohoku Area and counted as one of the three major festivals in the area along with Aomori Nebuta Festival and Sendai Tanabata Festival. Kanto are bamboo poles with many lanterns hanging from the top part. Festival attendants carry the lantern poles, which are likened to rice stalks, and march around the town to pray for rich harvest and drive away summer illnesses and evil spirits. The amazing skill of those men carrying a long lantern pole on a very tight balance, moving it from their heads to shoulders and waists, is definitely worth a check-out.
3. Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival
Location: Aichi Prefecture
Date: The 4th Saturday and Sunday of July, Every Year
Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival is hosted by Tsushima Shrine, Aichi Prefecture, as a river festival with a history of over 500 years. It is counted as one of the three major river festivals in Japan. The festival, whose origin dates back to the 14th – 16th century, was once favored by such historical figures as Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
This festival actually continues for a couple of months but especially noteworthy is the events on those two dates shown above. The river boats called “Danjiri Bune,” each of which is decorated with 12 lanterns on the main mast, to express the number of months, and 365 lanterns making layers of semi-circular shapes to express the number of days in a year, will be beautifully reflected on the water surface of the river and create a stunning view. The very picturesque and atmospheric view you can enjoy at this festival of light and water has remained unchanged since a long time ago.
4. Taga Taisha Manto Festival
Location: Shiga Prefecture
Period: August 3rd – 5th, Every Year
People traditionally express their gratitude for gods at Taga Taisha (Shrine) Manto Festival. Over 12,000 lanterns, some raised high up on the poles and others arranged horizontally to draw straight lines, create a fabulous view, which is well-known as one of the great summer features of Shiga Prefecture. Every year, a mass dance, live music concerts and other events are also held on the site of Taga Taisha Shrine to add greatly to the exciting mood of the festival.
5. Nakashibe Summer Festival
Location: Hokkaido Prefecture
Date: The 2nd Saturday and Sunday of August, Every Year
Nakashibe Summer Matsuri is a festival in Hokkaido mainly featuring a mass bon dance. About 6,000 lanterns will be arranged high above in the air like showers of light. You will be able to have your name printed on one of these lanterns if you like. Best features of the festival are the fireworks display on the festival eve, the mass bon dance on the main event days where people march and dance around a large tower and the delicious local gourmet food served at street stalls.
The winter version of this festival also features thousands of lanterns. But each lantern in the winter festival will be in the shape of a snowman. It would be interesting if you can visit the festivals in both seasons and check the differences.