The Return Of This Traditional Lantern Festival Lights Up The Summer In Tokyo

Nowadays there are a wealth of YouTube videos, blogs and articles for finding out about Japan but back in my day the resources were far more limited. The sad fact is that a lot of my Japanese imagery was shaped by the “Okinawa” scenes (filmed in Hawaii!) in ‘The Karate Kid Part II‘ (1986), and there was one scene which stuck in my mind for a long time.

The den-den daiko hand-held pellet drums and the Japanese tea ceremony may be more famous but I was really impressed by the beauty of such floating lanterns which Mr Miyagi and Daniel-San put in the local river as a traditional way of honouring the former’s father after he passed away. The practice is called Toro Nagashi, and it’s typically a part of the Obon season in Japan when people like to remember their ancestors.

This floating lantern nighttime event at Chidorigafuchi Moat at the fringe of the Imperial Palace grounds is billed as one of Tokyo’s most beautiful summer events. It took place over two nights on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th July and I was there for the second night after disembarking at Kudanshita Station on the Tozai Line.

Of course very few events have taken place in the last couple of years due to Covid_19 but I couldn’t believe that it was six years since my wife and I tried and failed to see it in 2016 due to it being cancelled quite late on because of bad weather in the daytime. The conditions this time were fine for it to go ahead as planned if you consider very hot and humid weather as fine!

Ushi-ga-fuchi moat was quite the sight within metres of stepping out of exit 2.

Maybe the best place to be is out on the moat itself in one of the limited rental boats where you’ll be surrounded by the floating lanterns once released.

The lanterns are usually decorated with symbols, flowers, pictures, handwritten messages, and even pop-cultural things like the Minions could be seen in the case of this particular festival where there was a heavy presence of foreigners. Quite surprising given Japan’s stance on not allowing foreigners in to the country in the wake of coronavirus.

One such decoration

This popular light-up spectacle has a history dating back to 1958 and I think I heard that about 800 gentle lantern lights were released on to the water’s surface at 7pm. It cost ¥1000 to purchase one and a range of coloured marker pens were on hand to write your own hopes, dreams or prayers.

I’m pretty sure this was the first event I’ve been to since Covid_19 but as nice as it was to see many females wearing the traditional summer yukata, I’m not sure if I can say it was good to be back amidst crowds of people. It really was just a sea of cameras being held in the air as the lanterns floated down the water shortly after sunset.


My photos don’t really do this spectacle much justice as I had to hold my camera above my head as high as possible (having a selfie stick helped with that a bit!) and then zoom in quite a bit.

It was difficult to really enjoy and appreciate it the beauty of the event when jostling for a position to take a picture. Who am I to complain though when I was one of them!! I think I was just a bit surprised to see that many people in attendance. You can’t have it all your own way!


Over a decade ago I went to see an event called Edo Nashibina which I thought might have been similar to what I saw in the aforementioned 80s movie. It wasn’t and I left that event feeling a bit disappointed. This time it was definitely the real thing and I’m very happy that I got to experience it but that feeling of slight disappointment was still with me as I left to head home at aboy 7:30 pm! I’m glad I’ve done it now but probably won’t ever do so again.

Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper Special: TF Top 10……Quirky Japanese Festivals’

Click here to read ‘Edo Nagashibina 2011’ 

Click here to read ‘Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Karate Kid Part II’ (1986)’

Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – River Rafting In Saitama (2005)’

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
This entry was posted in Japan Life, Quirky Japan and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Return Of This Traditional Lantern Festival Lights Up The Summer In Tokyo

  1. Pingback: TF Top 20……Tokyo Fox Hits Of 2022 | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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