Summer has truly arrived in Tokyo.
Tourou Nagashi is one of the most important rituals in Japanese spiritual life. Chouchin paper lanterns are floated down a river on the last day of Obon, the lights guiding the spirits back to the afterlife. Obon is traditionally observed in August, but by Tokyo custom the old lunisolar calendar (Hyouka fans will get that reference) date is usually used, and it’s observed in July.
There are a few Tourou Nagashi ceremonies in Tokyo – the biggest is on the Sumidagawa in Asakusa and actually is observed in August – and I really wanted to see this at least once. The ceremony in Ueno is actually performed using Shinobazu Pond, the natural body of water in Ueno Park. Monks from the Benton-do temple on a man-made island at the center of the pond row out in the small boats that are rentals by day, and release the chouchin on the water’s surface as a large torch burns in the middle of the pond.
Sadly, this is one of those instances where pictures and video just don’t do the experience justice – nighttime really exposes the limitations of an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. Still, I snapped a few for posterity and I thought I’d share them. Weather permitting I plan to check out the Asakusa ceremony next month.