This Photo of the Week (POTW) is from the recent Nara Lantern Festival (in Japanese, “Tokae”). English language information about this event is quite hard to find. I’ve seen tourists in Nara, right where the event was set to occur that night wonder what was being set up. So what can be found? Nara is attributed as the first permanent capital of Japan over 1,300 years ago, until a revolt by senior Shinto priests who moved to Kyoto and successfully set up their new capital (the current imperial lineage comes from the renegade priest). Nara is also the sister city of Canberra Australia, Gyeong-ju Sth Korea, Toledo Spain, Versailles France, and two Chinese cities. See the blog tag ‘Nara’ or a friend’s website Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for more info.
The Lantern Festival began in 1999, and is situated in the main tourist areas of the city, including Nara Park (where the infamous deer roam), Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, and other major places. The lanterns are mainly small plastic tubes with candles in them, of which there’s about 20,000 set up (Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips). There are also bamboo art-work frames set up, and only on the final night was Todaiji and Kasugataisha Shrine open with their own lanterns, too. See the official map for more info. Also, it seems the event runs annually from 5th to 14th August, but double check the official website before committing to the trip.
If you plan to visit for the festival, you’d need at least a couple of nights, as there is no way you can see it all and at a comfortable pace. When I went, it was 37°C, one of the highest temperatures recorded for not just the 2013 summer, but for that area on record. Spend the morning seeing the sights, the afternoon avoiding the heat and recuperating in air conditioning, and the evening enjoying the night time stroll, with several tens of thousands of people spread out through the town. And, don’t forget to take your camera…
This image, and more, are available at my agent’s website: Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection. (Thanks to Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for alerting me to this event).