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Best time to go to Japan

Lantern Festival in Japan (Toro Nagashi) 2022

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.

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Last updated: by Anna Andrukh
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The Japanese lantern festivals or Toro Nagashi are some of the most important events in Japan. Well, they're almost as much important as New Year’s Eve and are celebrated all over the country. For three days in a row in August, Japanese floating lanterns are set afloat at dusk to commemorate the souls of the dead. The view is breathtaking—the glow covers the rivers and then slowly fades into the distance.

Toro Nagashi can be celebrated amid a close circle of friends or transform into a massive festival of lights with hundreds of paper lanterns. Japanese people believe that during Toro Nagashi, the souls of their dead relatives come back home for a short period. That’s why families take days off at work, come together, light the lanterns (toro), and thank their ancestors for visiting and protecting them.

The most popular lantern festivals in Japan

One of Japan’s most prominent paper lantern festivals is called Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, where 10,000 lanterns are set afloat. Tokyo can also be proud of its huge lantern festival, called the Asakusa celebration (Sanja Matsuri), which is held on the Sumida River and commemorates those lost to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The other popular lantern festivals in Japan are Yamaguchi Tanabata Lantern Festival, Kanto Festival, Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival, Tsunan Snow Festival, Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival, and Tado Taisha Shrine Lantern Festival.

The admission and participation

Toro Nagashi is absolutely free to watch. More interestingly, you can take part in it: just bring your own lanterns or buy the ready-to-use ones for around $13. At the festivals, you can find special tables to adorn your lantern with pictures and wishes. It’s better to come to the river’s banks early to avoid the long queues, where people can wait for 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.