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Lantern Festival in Japan (Toro Nagashi) 2024

Japanese Lantern Festivals, where people commemorate the souls of the dead, is the second most essential event in the country after New Year's Eve.

Dates: August, 2024

Lantern Festival in Japan (Toro Nagashi)
Lantern Festival in Japan (Toro Nagashi)
Lantern Festival in Japan (Toro Nagashi)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

The Japanese lantern festivals, known as Toro Nagashi, hold significant cultural importance in Japan. Lasting for three consecutive days in August, these festivals feature the setting afloat of Japanese floating lanterns, known as toros, at dusk to honor the souls of the departed. The sight is awe-inspiring as the glowing lanterns illuminate the rivers before gradually fading into the distance. Toro Nagashi is a traditional ritual observed during the Obon holiday, symbolically guiding the spirits of ancestors to the other side.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony (August 6, 2024)

One of Japan’s most prominent paper lantern festivals is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, where 10,000 lanterns are set afloat. The Hiroshima River Lantern Festival, also known as The Peace Memorial Ceremony, is an annual event held on the evening of August 6th to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing. The Lantern Floating Ceremony continues to be held in the Peace Memorial Park.

Asakusa Toro Nagashi Lantern Festival (early August, 2024)

Tokyo can also be proud of its huge lantern festival, the Asakusa celebration (Sanja Matsuri), held on the Sumida River to commemorate those lost to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Two thousand five hundred lanterns adorned with handwritten messages are gently floated down a slope into the waters on the east side of the Sumida River, specifically between the Azuma-Bashi Bridge and Kototoi-bashi Bridge. This heartwarming tradition takes place on the Asakusa Station side, not the Skytree side.

Kyoto River Lantern Festival (August 16, 2024)

The toro nagashi ceremony at Togetsukyo Bridge in Kyoto is well-known and held annually on August 16th. Accessible from Arashiyama Station, the venue is a short walk from the station along the river. Originating in 1949 to honor war victims, it coincides with the Gozan no Okuribi event, where fires on the mountainside are visible. Visitors can participate by purchasing lanterns on-site and sending them down the river, creating a memorable experience.

Kinosaki Onsen Lantern Festival (August, 2024)

Kinosaki Onsen embraces a cherished tradition of illuminating the Otani River, inviting residents' and visitors' hopes and aspirations to mingle in its gentle currents. During the month of Obon, the community of Kinosaki Onsen upholds this tradition, extending invitations to locals and hot spring enthusiasts to inscribe their wishes on lanterns before releasing them into the Otani River, honoring both the living and the departed in a poignant display of unity and remembrance.

Admission and Participation

Toro Nagashi is absolutely free to watch. More interestingly, you can participate in it: bring your lanterns or buy the ready-to-use ones. At the festivals, you can find special tables to adorn your lantern with pictures and wishes. It's better to come to the river banks early to avoid the long queues, where people can wait hours. Once you reach the river, the volunteers will light your lantern, and you can set it afloat. Don't miss a chance to observe such a breathtaking occasion when visiting Japan in August.

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Authors: Sophia Andrus