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Largest City

Yanai Goldfish Lantern Festival

Giant glowing goldfish are paraded through this cute town.

In the rural prefecture of Yamaguchi, located at the tail end of the main island of Honshu, is a beautiful town known as Yanai. It is a small, unassuming place but has a unique charm and an interesting story to tell. The biggest draw of the area is a glowing goldfish festival every summer.

Iwakuni Castle

Iwakuni Castle
Yanai was a fishing village, because of its access to the inland sea of Japan fishermen and merchants would come and go regularly from this convenient port. Even now you can take a ferry from Yanai to the city of Matsuyama on the neighboring Shikoku region, a small but tourist-friendly island.

Today, less fishing takes place in the town, but fish are still important to the local culture. In recent years Yanai has started marketing itself as a “goldfish town.” Immediately when you step off the train, you will see lanterns in the shape of cartoonish goldfish hanging from the ceilings. These lanterns decorate local businesses all over the town. There’s even a special lantern craft station perfect for tourists. Open all year round, the shop lets you paint your own fish lantern to take home.

Goldfish lantern festival

Photo by: Alfie Blincowe Locals carry a goldfish float.

Why is it like this? The story that locals tell is that Yanai fishermen would see how much children enjoyed winning goldfish at Japanese festivals (a long-standing traditional game) and make them lanterns as toys.

The real story is that Yanai was inspired by the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, where everybody in Aomori constructs giant lanterns and parades them through the city.

Yanai has its own festival called the Yanai Goldfish Lantern Festival where they also parade close to 30 giant lanterns through the town, except here, all of the lanterns are in the shape of fish. The festival happens on the second Sunday in August every year. Local men will carry the lanterns and children will ride inside. The men will compete to see who can spin their lantern the fastest whilst local musicians play. It is quite a sight to see.

If you’re traveling Japan in summer, stop by Yanai. Grab a paper fish and join the crowd. The Lanterns and atmosphere will make for an unforgettable experience.


Iwakuni Castle

Iwakuni Castle

Yamaguchi's historical masterpiece protected by an unlikely hero.


How To Get There


Yanai, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan

By train

Take the JR Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima (3.5 hours) then transfer to the JR local line to Yanai (1.4 hours).

By bus

Take an overnight bus from Tokyo to Hiroshima central bus terminal, then change buses to the Tabuse Kō 田布施行, and get off at Yanai Shiyakushomae bus stop 柳井市役所前.

By car

About n 10-hour drive from Tokyo station.

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