Japanese lantern, or chochin, is
made of thin but tough translucent paper
stretched over a cylindrical bamboo frame,
with a candle placed inside providing illumination.
On August 26 and 27 every year Suwa Shrine
in the town of Isshiki, Aichi Prefecture,
mounts the Giant Lantern Festival. This
Shinto festival, going back 450 years, has
been designated a prefectural cultural property.
Its origin is said to be a bonfire lit to
repel a sea demon that had been plaguing
the area. Thanks to the intervention of
the deity of Suwa, the demon was banished.
In gratitude, bonfires were lit every year
to honor the deity. They were replaced by
lanterns in 1661. At first the lanterns
were normal size, but over time different
neighborhood associations began vying to
construct bigger and bigger lanterns. Today
the festival features 12 giant lanterns,
one pair each for six associations. The
largest are about 10 meters high and 5.6
meters in diameter. There are similar festivals
elsewhere in Japan, but Isshiki boasts the
Prefecture is located roughly in the middle of the Japanese
archipelago and is the nation's top industrial prefecture, being the
home of Toyota Motor Corp. and other leading-edge manufacturers. It
also has a rich history and cultural tradition that continue to enrich
the lives of residents today. A number of large-scale projects are
planned to lead the prefecture into the twenty-first century, including
the 2005 World Exposition and a new international airport.
AICHI VOICE is a colorful English-language publication
issued by the Aichi
International Association, a nonprofit organization established
by the Aichi Prefectural Government, to introduce Aichi's proud
traditions and latest trends to a worldwide audience.
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updated in November 2001
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