All you need to know about the Nagasaki Lantern Festival

08:34 02/05/2024

As part of the Meiji Restoration, Japan no longer uses the lunar calendar and thus has stopped celebrating Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Those who still want to celebrate this holiday, don’t be sad, since the people in Nagasaki still do!

Held during the first 15 days of the Lunar New Year, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is the largest in all of Japan. It is a way for Chinese people living in Japan to celebrate Lunar New Year - the most important holiday in China. In this article, dive in to explore the Nagasaki Lantern Festival with GoEMON! 

1. Origin and meaning

Nagasaki is home to one of Japan’s oldest and largest Chinatowns. The people here hold a huge lantern festival every year to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which attracts hundreds and thousands of tourists both in and out of Japan. It first started as a simple, small-scale event organized by the Chinese merchants but had grown to become one of the biggest and most significant festivals in Nagasaki. 

The festival commences around late January to early February (depending on the Lunar calendar), and lasts for 15 days. During this period, lanterns, which come in all shapes and sizes, were hung everywhere on the streets of Nagasaki, transforming it into a bustling, lively city of light. The yellow illuminating lights of the lanterns seem to bring warmth and dispel the cold of winter. 

This year, the festival will be held from Feb 9 to Feb 25.

2. Locations

The lantern displays will be set up at 8 different sights throughout the city. You can check all 8 locations if you wish to, but if pressed for time, we recommend focusing on these 3 main locations: Chuo Park, Minato Park, and Nagasaki Shinichi Chinatown. Of course, Chinatown is the one location that you definitely should not pass. 

3. Activities held during the festival 

(1) Lantern displays 

As you can probably tell from the name itself, the main attraction of the Nagasaki Lantern Festival would, of course, be the lantern displays. The displays will be located in many different spots throughout the city, bringing light and warmth to the streets of Nagasaki. There will be a total of over 15,000 lanterns in all shapes and sizes, from the common rounded ones to more sophisticated lanterns depicting animals, zodiac signs, nature, and many more. 

If possible, take some time to visit the Megane arch bridge. Said to be the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan, this is also the only location where bright yellow lanterns are hung. With the addition of cranes, koi, and lotus lanterns on the river, you will surely understand why the place is crowned as the most photogenic spot in Nagasaki. 

(2) Traditional performances  

Traditional Chinese performances, such as lion dance, dragon dance, and Chinese acrobatics, are indispensable when it comes to celebrating Lunar New Year. These shows exhibit the rich and beautiful traditions of China through the incorporation of acrobatic performances, traditional music, and clothing, prepared and performed all by skilled Chinese artists. For those who have never seen these dances before, and even those who have had the chance to, you are to be taken away by how impressive these performances are. 

(3) Enjoy Chinese cuisine 

No festival is complete without food, and the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is also no exception. Coming here, you will get the opportunity to try all sorts of tasty Chinese foods, from full meals to drinks, snacks, and desserts. 

(4) Firework displays 

The festival also features firework displays, which will be held in several different locations throughout the city.  

For those who are wondering if there are any festivals to participate in this February, definitely go check out the Nagasaki Lantern Festival! The festival is sure to be an amazing experience. 

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