A festival of tradition filled with lantern light
Among high-spirited shouts and the musical accompaniment of drums and flutes, kanto (pole lanterns) arranged in the style of bells are lifted into the night sky on huge poles of bamboo created over the generations. On those 270 poles, the light of over 10,000 lanterns illuminate the night sky as they resemble ears of rice in the venue of Kanto Boulevard. Nationally recognized as an Important Intangible Folk Culture Property, the 200-year-old festival was developed from the summer event of Nemuri Nagashi to banish the sleep demon and has progressed to this day as a festival to ward off evil and pray for a good harvest. Over 1.2 million people from all over Japan come to visit and celebrate this festival.
The magnificent techniques supporting the kanto and the traditional craftsmen supporting the festival
Below the kanto that gracefully illuminate the night sky, the sashite performers raise them on their own. They show off incredible skill in keeping the perfect balance as they lower the kanto poles, which reach a maximum height of 12m, a weight of 50kg and hold 46 lanterns, without having any of the light go out. The technique of placing the poles on the palms of their hands, shoulders, foreheads and even on their lower backs reflect the utmost difficulty. Another vital role is played by the lanterns themselves which are hand-crafted by the craftsmen for use in the festival. Created from washi paper, the lanterns are preserved and made through careful techniques. Also at every turn in the festival, the traditional craft of these local artisans is alive through things such as the bamboo poles, the taiko drums and the hanten short coats that the sashite performers wear.
Many events that bring the festival alive
During the time of the festival, there are many other events happening nearby. At the Kanto Myogi Kai (Kanto Skill Event) which is known as a daytime kanto event, grand competitions in raising the kanto are held so that the skills of master performers can be appreciated. In addition, at the Kanto Taiken Corner (Kanto Workshop), you can try out the techniques of holding kanto through miniaturized versions. The Kanto Yatai Village and The Local Cuisine Festival are also popular so you can easily sample the local food and drink there.