Japan from the inside out

Matsuri da! (8): Nagasaki’s Lantern Festival brings China to Kyushu

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nagasaki is known for the strong Chinese influence on its local culture. Nowhere is that more evident than with the local Lantern Festival, which began on Sunday to coincide with the Lunar New Year and will continue until March 4th.


Gongs sounded after 5:00 p.m. in a local park, signaling the start of a ceremony to light the 12,000 Chinese lanterns hung throughout the city. Fireworks were timed to go off as the lanterns were lit. This festival is a celebration of things Chinese, and events include an ancient lion dance, a dragon dance, and acrobats. One shrine displays 10 roasted pig heads as an offering to the divinities.

The festival has been held since the opening of the Port of Nagasaki in 1571, but was mostly limited to the city’s small Chinatown area. That changed about 15 years ago, when the scale of the festival was expanded. It now attracts many more tourists, but that’s no surprise; the combination of the events with the thousands of bright, colorful lanterns throughout the city make the festival a visual feast.

The festival’s theme changes every year to coincide with the year in the Chinese zodiac, so this year visitors will see a lot of pigs. And there’ll be a lot of visitors viewing those pigs—an estimated 900,000 are expected to show up.

Try this link before it goes: it’s a minute-long report from Japanese TV. If you can’t read Japanese, click on the symbol for either 56k or 300 k.

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