Giant Lantern Festival

Trip Start Jul 26, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Aichi,
Friday, August 27, 2010

The festival has been held every year in Suwa Shrine of Isshiki, a small town in Aichi Prefecture, since 1564. The villagers at that time used a balefire instead of a lantern to protect their village from the Sea Evil and that was the origin of the festival. About 350 years ago, they started using lanterns for their convenience and, in the course of time, six shrine parishioners began competing in the size of the lanterns. Interestingly, the size was limited by the regional government after a while, but there was still a parishioner breaking the limit, put in jail. After a while, however, the lord visited the festival and got stunned at the giant lanterns. Then, because a villager plead for pardon of the parishioner, the lord released him and permitted his giant lantern. Six pairs of giant lanterns are hung in the festival of Suwa Shrine. The largest lantern at the present is 5.6m in diameter and 10m in height and its replica is permanently displayed in the Hall of Learning.

I hadn't known this festival until I found its brochure at my train station, although Isshiki is located in the prefecture where I live. My mom is knowledgeable in tourist attractions all over the prefecture (and Japan), but she didn't know the festival, either. I googled the festival, and then I happened to find its introduction page on the website of JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization)!  I was so surprised because there are a lot of festivals held in August all over the country, only 10 festivals of them were introduced there, and Isshiki lantern festival was also selected! I usually pass local festivals, but for the above-mentioned reason, I couldn't miss out on it.

Daicho-chin Matsuri (Giant Lantern Festival) from JNTO website.
The webpage has only one picture, but it is far better than any pic of mine...
Isshiki is close to my workplace. I took a bus from Hekinan Station and arrived at the shrine at around seven. The shrine was terribly crowded, because the candles were scheduled to be put in the lanterns at seven. It was possible to get to the shrine ealier, but I definitely wanted to see the lit-up lanterns. The lanterns were beautifully painted like picture scrolls, but not as glowing as I had expected. Other than the huge lanterns, nothing was different from other festivals of Japan. As for the sizes of the lanterns, however, I was 100% satisfied.

Three months after the festival, I got information that a replica of the largest lantern from the festival was displayed in the Hall of Learning of Isshiki. I was very happy to hear that, because I couldn't take good pictures in the festival and I was about ready to give them up. Anyway, I couldn't resist to a temptation to visit the museum. The museum is not only about the festival, but also about the overall history of Isshiki, although I was not interested in the history except that of the festival. I stirred up my memory by watching the video and looking closely at the details of the diorama related to the festival. The main display of the museum was the largest lantern of Japan, which was 10 meters in hight, 5.6 meters in diameter, and 1 ton in weight. The museum was three-story building, which barely housed the lantern hung from the ceiling of the third floor to the first floor. The size of the candle was 1.2 meters high and 80 kilograms heavy. I was fully satisfied with them. 

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