Handmade Paper Cup Lanterns at Komono Lantern Festival

This past weekend was the Lantern Festival at our neighbouring town of Komono. It happened in conjunction with the Komono Festival this year (usually they are separate) so it was a big dancing, eating, drum-playing and lantern-viewing party.

Before I could get in on any of the action though, I had to BE the action, as I performed with my taiko (Japanese drum) group…

This was my first time playing the “Oo-daiko” (big drum) during a performance. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, and I felt pretty hardcore. photo: Joanna Tocher

More taiko! We hadn’t practiced this song in forever and I didn’t really know what I was doing half the time. But my fan club in the audience told me they didn’t notice anything, so my strategy of smiling and pretending I knew what I was doing must have worked. Not on our taiko leader though, he made fun of me after, haha, and made us all practice this song a million times at practice the next morning. photo: Joanna Tocher

The lanterns are my favourite part of this festival because the kids of Komono hand decorate them, and it’s really fun to look at all the different designs they come up with. Many of them draw their favourite characters or sports, some write messages, and some get very creative with their designs. Because I was busy playing performing taiko (Japanese drums) and subsequently stuffing my face with giant smoked turkey legs, pineapple and シューアイス (“Shoo Ice,” kind of like a giant cream puff with ice cream inside), I didn’t get to the lanterns until near the end of the night. They started extinguishing the lanterns even as we were admiring them, but I managed to take some frantic pictures before the clean-up crew ruined my fun.

The lanterns were set up along the side of the river bank, opposite the rest of the festival, so this is what they looked like from the festival side. The kanji in the middle means “happiness.” Komono Town was recently voted the happiest town in Japan in a country-wide poll, so it’s a fitting kanji for this year’s festival! After admiring the view from a distance, we headed across the bridge to get a closer look.

A field of hand-decorated lanterns up close.

Many lanterns were also scattered about the rocky riverside.

Down by the bay, where the lanterns grow…

Up close: Hello, Kitty! No moment in Japan would be complete without her.

Closeups, left to right: Kapibarasan, Miffy, and… the Green… lantern?

Upside-down Mickey, Star power! and my favourite bear, Winnie the Pooh!

I love the fat cat on the left. The right cup was an ad for some kid’s instragram, probably, “hanabanana1999.” Random!

Some of the lanterns got really artsy, like these flowers and goldfish cups!

These artists thought outside the box, or the lantern… the one on the left reminded me of Lite Brite. The middle one has ear flaps cut out so the light can shine through. The one on the right is just pure abstract genius, something really deep is probably being communicated there, I’m just not sure what… 😉

Finally, after the lanterns had been mostly extinguished, we headed back through the festival to the car, and we managed to catch the last dance on the way. Happy festival times were had by all!