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Friday, June 10, 2011

Toyama lantern festival provides bright opportunity for pictures

Staff writer

Still relatively unknown despite being historically famous, northwestern Japan will host one of the country's most enthralling events, the Tonami Yotaka Festival.

Held in Tonami, Toyama Prefecture, this festival of gigantic lanterns has been taking place annually since the Taisho Era (1912-1926), to bless the harvest of the crops. It takes place every second Friday and Saturday of June while the preparation takes from two to three months in advance.

On the Friday evening of the event, there is a contest in which the best 20 of the giant lanterns are handpicked to be used during the parade.

On Saturday, the selected lanterns are then taken to the streets to travel through the city. The young men carrying them start to chant "yoiyasa!" as they hoist these lanterns around town. These men then proceed to slam their lanterns into the others while the slowly intensifying drumming from the drummers gives a sense of thrill and creates an adrenaline rush for spectators.

The massive lanterns are all handmade and are created using bamboo, washi paper all sewn together piece by piece. The warm glow from the lanterns and the variety of colors illuminated throughout the area creates an excellent opportunity for taking pictures.

Tonami Yotaka Festival takes place June 10 and 11. For more information (in Japanese), visit yotaka.fc2rs.com.

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