Japanese summer is festival season, and the June Lantern Festival (rokugatsudô) is unique to the prefecture of Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu. If you think it’s a bit late to mention it, don’t worry: we’re talking about the lunar month of June, which corresponds to our current month of July, which is why this festival takes place every year on 15 and 16 July. Celebrated in 5 shrines in the city of Kagoshima, the most famous is the Terukuni shrine, one of those rare shrines dedicated to mortals deified after their death, in this case the feudal lord Nariakira Shimazu.
So what do you do at this festival?
Well, for a start, you go around in traditional summer clothes: yukata for the women and jinpei for the men. Whether it’s a weekend or a weekday, everyone dresses up to contribute to a festive landscape. Of course, there’s plenty to eat among the rows of stalls offering cold drinks, local and other specialities, activities for children and the not-so-young, fruit, noodles, vegetables and meat in all shapes and sizes. Then there are the famous lanterns – over a thousand of them! -decorated by children. The lanterns form corridors that you walk through, and canopies under which you pass, your eyes already drawn to the next lanterns.
Finally, it’s summer, it’s night, it’s outside… All these elements converge towards the only reasonable summer ending: fireworks!
(Title picture © K．P．V．B)