The seasons have turned from “Seatbelt Buckle on Your Bare Arm” Summer to “Wow, it’s livable and not so bad, isn’t it?” Autumn, and for many of us, that means it’s time to go out for the Autumnal Festivals across the prefecture. And what better what to kick off your festival season than with the Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival, which happens next week!
Need convincing? Well, read on and let’s see if I can!
The Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is held from October 4th to 6th, which this year, falls on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, affording those looking for a bit of early weekend fun a great chance to visit a smaller, not often traveled part of the prefecture. In recent years, the days have fallen completely on weekdays, making us early rising or commuting ALTs risk a sleepy next morning, but worry not: this year’s more fortunate dates make it a much easier task to find time and keep your self well rested too.
Are you convinced that you should try yet? No? Well, then here’s a wonderful excerpt from Zoe Miriam, friend to many and our resident Fukushima Expert over on Rediscover Fukushima:
“The sight of the festival floats, stretching up 11m at their tallest, shining bright in the evening light makes Nihonmatsu famous as home to one of the top three lantern festivals in Japan.”
As Zoe writes, this festival was started around 370 years ago by the Lord of Nihonmatsu’s Castle Kasumi as a shinto festival for all, regardless of status. The festival remains open to all, and still containing the blessings of the original festival, carried by the seven floats that wind through the area, representing the seven areas of Nihonmatsu.
As this is a public event, admission is free, but trust me, you’ll want to come with a few Noguchis (that’s 1000en notes, y’all) in hand as the festival hosts stalls from the station to the main streets of the city, with a wide range of food for all different appetites. Note that most the food you will find is not Vegan or Vegetarian, though there are a few sparse options and plenty of conbini lining the route.
Travelling by train is highly suggested, as parking will be at even more of a premium than usual, and bus routes may chance due to the routes taken by the float as they work around the city. There is parking in a small lot near the station, but it is paid and typically -even on non-event days- remains fairly full.
Additionally, October 4th is generally regarded as the best day: this is the only day you can witness the floats -each laden with 300 lanterns- make their way around the streets of the city.
I highly suggest that any and all take this as a great chance to come up North -or East, West, and South- to enjoy a multitude of foods on a stick, and see the sights of a historic town. Arrive before sunset, grab a map, and head to a premium spot to catch the floats in action, and cheer along with everyone.
Hope to see you there under the lantern light!
October 4: 17:30 – 23:30
- Highlights: The only day during the three-day period where you will see all three floats together; peaks at 8-8:30 along one of the steepest slopes in the city before the floats turn onto the main street of Nihonmatsu.
October 5: 8:30 – Early Evening
- Highlights: The mikoshi visits each neighborhood starting at 8:35 in the morning; much more subdued, but tends to be those who live in the neighborhoods or areas, though there’s certainly night time enjoyment to be had.
October 6: 5:30 – Very Late!
- Highlights: The floats circulate around their own neighborhoods and parade around their respective districts with occasional meet-ups; once more, this appears to be a much more private and local event, rather than the widely attended first night; however, it’s still got wonderful food stalls, and you might get to enjoy the wonders of Nihonmatsu’s night views too!
Please note that trains to and from Nihonmatsu run about every 30 minutes, though this thins as the evening waxes on.
- The last train bound for Fukushima City leaves at 23:36, or 11:36. It costs 420en to travel one way. It terminates at the station. From there, you can use taxis for further transport around the city.
- The last train bound for Koriyama leaves at 22:53, with stops at all terminals until Yabuki. It costs 410en to travel one way. From there, you can use taxis for further transport around the city.
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