Sunday, November 2, 2008

Takehara Bamboo Lights Festival

Saturday evening Joe and I took a trip to a little town called Takehara to see the Bamboo Lights Festival.

Remember last February when I wrote about our trip into the snowy countryside to go sledding and celebrate Setsubun? And how the old Japanese men sawed up long shoots of hollow bamboo into little shot glasses? Well, the bamboo is cut up in the same fashion for this festival, but instead it's used for lanterns. Lots of them.

From the train station, we followed the clusters of glowing orange bamboo lanterns through the streets til we finally reached the historic district, also known as "Little Kyoto" for it's old-world charm.

The streets were crowded with adults and children, some in kimono, admiring and photographing the lanterns clustered in large displays. Even with all the people, I felt relaxed and content in the peaceful atmosphere created by the flickering, glowing lanterns. The night air was clear and crisp. Flute music drifted through the crowds.

A very pleasant surprise was in store for me at the first large display. I had expected to see lots of lanterns arranged in patterns to spell words and form pictures. What I hadn't anticipated, however, was that the townspeople would carve the bamboo into their very own Japanese jack-o-lanterns.

It was the day after Halloween, and I'd been feeling homesick missing some of our fall traditions back home like pumpkin carving (Japan doesn't have large pumpkins like we do back home). Yet here were the sort of sights I'd been missing. It was a real blessing.

The displays were beautiful. Magical, really. I was so glad we went.

My pictures aren't the greatest since I was taking shots without a tripod (Joe was using it). But this should give you an idea what it looked like.

There was a walking path running through this sea of lamps.

I can read this one (above). It's the name of the town, Takehara, which literally means "bamboo field." The city was built 2,000 years ago on three bamboo and grass plains. Now there are large bamboo forests around the outskirts of the city.

Tunnel made entirely of bamboo strips

Bamboo artwork

My favorite part was a display of dozens of hanging lanterns with holes carved in them. Really, really cool. Joe got a good pic.

We noticed a lot of people trickling out from an alleyway, so we followed their path up a hill and came to a tiny shrine where people were praying. I snapped this photo of lanterns along some stone Buddhas near the shrine.

Joe and I were surprised that there weren't more food vendors at the festival. There were a handful that all sold pretty much the same thing — hot dogs, rice, takoyaki (octopus thing-a-ma-bobs). In a way, I was glad that the vendors hadn't overrun the place and ruined the ambiance. Though, I wouldn't have minded a bigger food selection... Guess ya can't have your cake and eat it, too.

As we headed back toward the train station, we saw a couple troupes of women performing in the streets. (Joe took the picture of the ladies in blue.)

A beautiful evening, capped off with beautiful music. We had a lovely time.


Luis said...

Cool post. Thanks for share.

Atashi In Hiroshima said...

beautiful. thinking of going there this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Just saw your pictures was taken in 'Little Kyoto' Bamboo Lantern. Very nice....Do you know what kind of light they use put inside bamboo culm? Appreciated your reply. Stefani Oshima Haiku Bamboo Nursery Hendersonville, North Carolina