Saturday, August 25, 2012

Toro Nagashi

Toro Nagashi is a tradition I have wanted to experience my whole life. To be honest, the first time I was exposed to it was while watching the Pokemon series as a young'n- it was an episode with a small coastal town holding a festival, and at the end it showed a lot of Japanese traditional end of summer festivals, like dancing for Obon in yukata around drummers and singers with festive lanterns and lighting. What charmed me most though, was at the very end everyone took little wooden boats with lanterns or candles and set them afloat on the river that connected to the ocean, and the scene showed them all drifting off, glimmering in the night and leaving tiny beacons. A ghost that was haunting the village shrine in this episode, hovered above one of the candles and drifted into the distance, while the narrator explained that every year at this time the locals set out lanterns on the sea for their departed loved ones to find their way to the next world.

That image had a big impact on me, and I romanticized seeing a similar real life celebration in Japan someday. The last time I visited, it wasn't the right time of year, and this time around as I searched and searched for local toro nagashi celebrations, I realized that it was something that only happens around the end of august, and more likely in small towns. Luckily I found an urban version in Tokyo to attend toward the end of July where they floated lanterns in the chiyoda palace moat.

It was very crowded, but strangely peaceful, and it was definitely once of the most beautiful and moving things I have ever experienced. Each lantern represented a real life- lived, lost, and remembered. Some floated alone, and some floated in pairs. The gentle glow of the candle through the rice paper felt so delicate, and the small reflections in the water were lovely. I really wish this video could do it justice, but I think it's one of those 'you had to be there' moments.




  1. i love the video! that was lovely.

  2. This is so lovely. And I love that you mentioned Pokémon in this post! :)


  3. What a beautiful tradition. I would love to see this someday...thanks for sharing the video!