On a warm summer night in August, Kinosaki Onsen has made it a tradition to welcome the wishes and dreams of locals and visitors alike to illuminate the Otani River running through the hot spring town.
The custom of Toro Nagashi, a Japanese tradition often coinciding with Obon (a period of remembrance for those who have passed away), is an event where candlelit lanterns are released into a river or nearby body of water to symbolize the guiding of the deceased towards a peaceful afterlife.
The citizens of Kinosaki Onsen, while still holding this tradition during the month of Obon, invite neighborhood locals and hot spring-goers to write wishes on the lanterns before releasing them into the Otani River in addition to honoring the deceased. The wishes of the lantern-bearer are written in colorful inks, sometimes accompanied by drawings and messages to others, and are then gently placed in the river with the help of festival staff.
Those interested in floating a lantern down the river are able to write their wishes and messages at a table before handing their paper to staff members who construct the wooden portion of the lantern. Afterwards, lantern-bearers climb down to a float sitting atop the Otani River, where staff help release the lanterns out onto the water.
As the lanterns are carefully guided one by one down the Otani River, visitors dressed in vibrantly designed yukata, also known as light cotton kimono, gather along the streets and willow-decorated bridges of Kinosaki Onsen to admire the gorgeous rainbow of wishes and dreams gradually illuminating the evening waters.
Combined with the tranquil imagery of guests hopping in and out of the nearby hot springs, the dots of color flowing beneath Kinosaki Onsen’s scenic river bridges under a star-studded sky provide an unforgettable add-on to any summer trip to Japan.
In addition to the lovely lantern procession, the evening comes to a close with a lively display of bright fireworks painting the sky with countless combinations of colors and designs.
The evening of the Toro Nagashi event is without a doubt an unforgettably spectacular experience for visitors to Japan’s coziest hot spring town, and we hope our readers will be able to enjoy the magic of Kinosaki Onsen’s summer time lanterns during their next trip to Japan!
For more updates regarding Kinosaki Onsen’s Toro Nagashi event, held every year in August, please keep an eye on our events page for the most up to date information.