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.
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
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.