Chochin Matsuri


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Chochin Matsuri (Lantern Festival)

Various
Chochin are cylindrical lanterns made out of paper stretched over a split bamboo frame. These colorful, festive lanterns appear at many Japanese festivals, but they play a special role in Nihonmatsu's Chochin Matsuri on October 4-6 and Akita's Kanto Festival in August. Kanto are huge decorations made from 46 chochin hung from a 30-foot pole with nine cross-poles. Each kanto can weigh more than 100 pounds, and there are 160 kanto displayed at the festival in Akita. Not surprisingly, this event is also known as the Balancing Festival, since young men perform stunts in which they try to balance the kanto on their chins and foreheads for the entertainment of the crowd.
One of the best-known Chochin festivals is held on August 26-27 in Ishiiki town at Hazu in Aichi Prefecture. The primary attractions are 12 huge chochin, each about 30 feet high and 18 feet across, that are hoisted by means of pulleys up three huge pillars at the Suwa Shrine. According to a local legend, the lanterns commemorate the bonfire that destroyed a dragon who once threatened the shoreline community. As night nears, priests begin to illuminate the lanterns—a process that may take several hours. At the end of the festival the lanterns are lowered after religious dances and songs have been offered.
CONTACTS:
Akita City Hall
1-1-1 Sanno
Akita, Akita Prefecture 010-0951 Japan
81-1-8866-2033; fax: 81-1-8866-2278
www.city.akita.akita.jp/en/default.htm
City of Nihonmatsu, Nihonmatsu Film Commission
403-1 Kanairo
Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture 964-8601 Japan
81-2-4323-1111; fax: 81-2-4322-5411
www.city.nihonmatsu.lg.jp
SOURCES:
IllFestJapan-1993, p. 96
JapanFest-1965, pp. 176, 185, 193