Sennen Akari Festival: 20,000 bamboo lanterns emit warm glow in Hita City, Oita Prefecture
OITA, Nov. 14 – In the middle of November, Hita City, Oita Prefecture, held an annual event called Sennen Akari (meaning “a thousand years of lights” in Japanese), featuring fantastic displays of lanterns made of locally-cut bamboo. Around 20,000 candles were lit along the Mameda Town and Kagetsu river areas with historic buildings to create a dreamy atmosphere.
The locals began the festival in 2004 to revitalize the local economy and protect local specialties such as cedars and hinoki cypress from bamboo. They cut Moso-Chiku, the biggest bamboo found in Japan, in the bamboo groves next to local cedar and cypress forests every year to make lanterns.
The lanterns emitting warm glow were all over the town during the three-day event. There were 15 beautiful displays, some in front of the houses and along the sidewalks. Visitors enjoyed different displays, from the ones showing fire-works-like lights and the others hanging over the river and reflecting the glow on the water’s surface.
It took almost two months for local volunteers and Hita Forestry & Technical High School students to make the lanterns this year. The event is one of the three largest autumn lighting festivals held by the prefecture, but the city canceled it in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event, held for the first time in three years, drew 58,000 visitors to the city with a population of 62,000. ” I’ve been waiting for this for three years, and I can stay here gazing at the imaginary sight forever,” said Kazumi Nakamura, a 39-year-old local office worker who was enjoying the festival so happily.