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During Japan's hot and sultry summer, everyone tries to cool off by the water. In historic Tochigi City, affectionately called Koedo or "Little Old Tokyo," just 70 minutes north of Tokyo's Asakusa Station on Tobu Railway's Tobu Nikko Line, the annual Uzuma River Andon (Lantern) Festival is being from July 1 through September 30.
Festival goers enjoy 135 historic, Edo-style paper lanterns displayed along the Uzuma River from the Kaiun to Korai bridges and around Uzuma Park. Each unique lantern is intricately and handsomely decorated with paper-cut designs of floats and traditional warehouses. Lighting time is 7 to 10 pm daily, adding an exotic and nostalgic atmosphere to the town post-sunset. This video shows the opening ceremony of the 2021 event (audio only in Japanese).
In most years, on the first Sunday of August, the Andon Festival is made extra special with the addition of the Hyaku Hatto Nagashi Matsuri (108 Floating Lanterns Festival, 108 being a sacred number in Buddhism).
Unfortunately, this additional event was cancelled in 2020 and now again in 2021 due to the pandemic. However, those visiting Japan in future summers should look forward with anticipation. A hallowed boat carries 108 candles downs the Uzuma River, with gagaku (Japanese imperial court music), performed by a period Japanese orchestra.
This Buddhist event is said to have begun at the beginning of the Meiji era to pray for the safety of boat transportation on the Uzuma River and to flush away 108 earthly desires. This video shows the 2019 event (audio only in Japanese).
About Tochigi City
One of the most prominent commercial centers during the Edo period (1603-1868), Tochigi prospered due to maritime trade with Edo (the former name of Tokyo) via the Uzuma River. Today it is often called Koedo (little old Tokyo) because of its well-preserved kura (storehouses), machiya (merchant-style wooden buildings), old Japanese townscape, and "back-in-time" maritime transport. It's well worth a visit as a place to immerse and unwind amid the ambience of simpler, bye-gone days. Especially, the well-maintained Uzuma River, with its clean, high-quality water, replete with 100,000 swimming carp, refreshes everyone in summer, particularly with the festival lanterns' glow, best experienced on an old-time gondola boat tour.
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About Tobu Railways
TOBU Railway Co., Ltd. is a major Japanese corporation consisting of approximately 90 companies. The Tobu Railway covers the longest operating distance in metropolitan Tokyo, leading to numerous tourist attractions including Asakusa and TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN in Tokyo; Nikko and Kinugawa-Onsen, famous for its world heritage sites and hot springs; the Tatebayashi and Ashikaga areas, known for their blooming flower fields; and Kawagoe and Tochigi City, where the atmosphere of the old Edo era lives on. Tobu is also invested in a portfolio of hotels, including the newly opened The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko and FUFU Nikko Onsen Resort.