Last weekend, our town celebrated their ancestors with Tōrō Nagashi, which is a part of the annual Obon festival season. Obon is celebrated at different times throughout Japan, depending on the region and the calendar that they choose to go by (lunar or solar). During Tōrō Nagashi, the people of Tamura gathered together to guide the spirits of their ancestors back to the other world by floating lanterns down the river.
The festival started early in the afternoon, with vendors selling food, toys, and games. The whole town came out to celebrate, and shops that are normally closed were open and handing out food samples. Our once sleepy, quiet town was all of a sudden bustling with excitement and expectancy for the lighting of the lanterns.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tōrō Nagashi, but based on other festivals that Tamura has had, my expectations weren’t exactly high. But then they started lighting the lanterns:
The lanterns started off small, and as it grew darker the lanterns got bigger and bigger. The intricacy of the bigger lanterns was incredible, and it took teams of up to 10 men to float the lanterns down the river and through the more rapid moving waters. We had started watching the lanterns up on one of the main bridges, but then realized that we could walk right down to the river to watch them pass by.
Once all of the lanterns had been launched, the festival ended with a firework show.
While I wasn’t there to celebrate dead ancestors, it was a nice way to celebrate the start of the new school term, and another way to connect with my students and the people that live in our town.