Friday, October 18, 2019

Admire the 350-year-old lantern festival in Japan

More than 3,000 lanterns and tens of thousands of candles are lit brightly during the unique 350-year-old traditional festival in Nihonmasu, Fukushima, Japan, from 4-6 October each year.

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Thousands of lanterns light up the festival

Having existed since 1664, the Nihonmatsu festival has become an important highlight in the culture of Nihonmatsu in particular and Fukushima Prefecture in general. Taking place from 4-6 October every year, the festival features a performance of over 3,000 lanterns that combine the art of traditional Japanese taiko drumming. The ritual of the procession of lights is an activity that starts at Kasumigajo Castle in the morning, then in the afternoon, the cars will move into the central Nihonmatsu area, two intersections away, near the Ninhonmatsu train station. Here, many food stalls and other play areas are built around. At this moment, the whole small city of Nihonmatsu was like awake. Approaching 19h, the main activity of the festival takes place when a group of torchbearers arrives at each car. Each car will be lit by 1,500 candles.

The atmosphere was lively and bustling in taiko drums

Every October, more than 3,000 lanterns are hung on 7 trolleys. Each vehicle is a group of long-lined people, representing a district in Nihomatsu to participate in the traditional Taiko drum parade around the city. Each rickshaw carries more than 300 lanterns, each with its own music and drum beat. The convoy followed each car wearing a separate yukata outfit. In Japan, lanterns are considered a traditional item from the Edo period (around the early 1600s to the mid-1800s), serving the need for lighting.

Today, lanterns are an indispensable image in many important festivals of this country. The Nihonmatsu lantern festival in Fukushima Prefecture is the perfect example. This is said to be one of the top 3 lantern festivals in Japan, after Kanto Matsuri (Akita Prefecture) and Owari Tshushima-Tenno Matsuri (Aichi Prefecture). The first lord at Nihonmatsu began this Shinto festival to ensure the loyalty and enhance the religious piety of the local people. To do this, he decided to start the Nihonmatsu lantern festival, where anyone could attend regardless of the social status. As one of the important intangible folk properties of Fukushima Prefecture, this destination is worth a visit in a lifetime.

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