If you missed the Onomichi Lantern Festival on the 13th, or you were blown away by it and wanted more, the Takehara Shokei-no-michi Candle Festival may be just what you’re seeking. These autumn lantern and candle festivals are increasingly popular around western Japan since they’re such an excellent way to show off a town’s historic beauty while also extending the practical hours of tourism. And they’re a lot of fun.
Takehara is about 90 minutes east of Hiroshima City on the JR Kure Line. If you intend to spend some time in Hiroshima prefecture, Takehara is worth a day trip. Extending along the Honkawa River, the town’s history still shows in the excellent collection of older buildings concentrated in the eastern part of the city.
In the 17th century, locals began trying to reclaim land along the east bank of the river for farming. Although they were successful, the new land proved to be too salty for cultivation. Undaunted, the town converted the area to salt pans, and Takehara began to enjoy prosperity far more significant than would have been afforded by agriculture. Wealth from the salt industry allowed the rise of famous merchant scholars, including the great Confucian historian and poet Rai San’yo.
Today, the streets of Takehara are well known for their many fine historical merchants’ and scholars’ homes, with tiled roofs and white walls. There are also old breweries and their wells, and several interesting museums devoted to local history and craft traditions. A little farther to the east, visitors can take a pleasant stroll among the many old Buddhist temples dotting the mountainside.
At the Take no Yakata (House of Bamboo), a bamboo ecology garden about ten minutes car ride from the Station, visitors will even find an enormous pipe organ with pipes made from sections of bamboo. Where else will you ever see that?
The Candle Festival will take place on the evenings of Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28 2018. Admission is free, and as you wander the old streets illuminated by the flickering light of hundreds of candles arranged artfully in bamboo holders, a magic takes over. Some of the old houses are open and illuminated by candlelight, and at several points, shamisen performances are accompanied by traditional dancers. There are also jazz performances and demonstrations of instruments constructed from the ubiquitous bamboo. And of course, there is sake to be drunk and “taketori” (grilled chicken with marinated bamboo shoots) to be had. It’s all quite pleasant, and well worth the trip.
Location: Takehara Historic Preservation district
Time: Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28. You can show up any time, of course, but the festival proper kicks off from 17:00 and finishes at 21:00
Access: JR Kure Line to Takehara Station, then a very pleasant 15-minute walk. Basic Fare is 1180 yen.
Website: (Japanese) https://www.takeharakankou.jp/event/9842