/

Lighting the way for Obon

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Toro nagashi is a long-held Japanese tradition where candle-lit lanterns are released into rivers to guide the spirits of ancestors back to the other world during the Obon season.

On Aug. 16, the Asakusa Toro Nagashi will see 2,500 lanterns set afloat on the Sumida River between the Azuma-bashi and Kototoi-bashi bridges near Asakusa. A hauntingly beautiful sight, the peaceful custom is a gesture of respect for those who have passed away and gives participants a moment to think about their ancestors, loved ones or even past pets.

In 1946, after World War II, this festival, then called the “Festival of Recovery,” saw the release of 3,000 lanterns on the Sumida River. Afterward it attracted hundreds of thousands of people each year, including tourists from around the world. The event, however, stopped being held in 1965 after flood walls were built on both sides of the river, blocking access until 2005, when the construction of a Sumida River terrace, which has a walking path, café and rest areas, made it possible to revive the custom.

To participate and release a lantern for your loved ones costs ¥1,500.

Asakusa Toro Nagashi takes place Aug. 16 from 6 p.m. at Azuma-bashi Shinsui Terrace, near Asakusa Station, Tokyo. To watch is free but advanced registration is needed to light your own lantern. For more information, visit www.e-asakusa.jp/event/1408_tourounagashi.html.