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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Asakusa's "Toro Nagashi" Floating Lantern Festival


Azumabashi Bridge over the Sumida River was crowded this evening on its upstream side. From about 6.45pm, the crowds on the bridge and lining both sides of the river were treated to the sight of hundreds of candle-lit lanterns being floated from the Asakusa side.

The Toro Nagashi Lantern Floating Festival on the Sumida River, Asakusa, Tokyo.
Toro Nagashi Lantern Floating Festival on the Sumida River, Asakusa
 "Toro Nagashi" means "putting lanterns afloat" and is the feature of this midsummer festival that takes place here every year.

This supposedly ancient festival was revived in 1946 and ran annually until 1965, when flood prevention facilities built along the river made holding the festival impossible. However, with the pedestrianization of the river in the 21st century, the Toro Nagashi festival was revived yet again in 2005, and has been part of the Asakusa district's summer festivities every year since then.

Daylight on the Sumida River, just before the lanterns are set afloat at the Toro Nagashi Festival.
Azumabashi Bridge (red), on the Sumida River near Asakusa, Tokyo.
Every year, about three thousand lanterns are floated down the river. These delicate paper lanterns lit inside by a candle are released near the time of the full moon, and are traditionally seen as ensuring the welfare of those that live along and around the river.

Members of the public are invited to purchase a lantern for 1,500 yen, sent by mail, which they can then decorate with and float down the river on the day. Mail order applications end on July 31, and applications by those who can actually pick up a lantern directly in Asakusa from the Aasakusa Kankou Renmei (Asakusa Tourism Association) end just a couple of days before the event.

Toro Nagashi Matsuri lanterns floating down the Sumida River towards Komagata Bridge.
Lit Toro Nagashi Festival lanterns float downstream towards Komagatabashi Bridge on the Sumida River
We watched the festival from in front of the Asahi Beer Hall. This evening's event happened on a balmy, almost cool, midsummer evening, with the Tokyo Skytree towering in the background, and the breeze making the lights of Asakusa shimmer in the dark waters, amid which the tiny lanterns wended their way downstream - a reminder that life still offers simple, and pretty, pleasures.

Read about the huge Sanja Matsuri Festival that took place here in Asakusa just last month.

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