Saturday, February 04, 2006


Lantern Festival

Sometimes in Japan I have what I call the "lantern problem." This is basically my inability to capture the mood of certain places and situations on film. This problem is most pronounced when I want to photograph old matsuri, which eschew electricity and favor fire and lanterns to convey a mood.

I can't say that I'm exactly satisfied with these photos, but I've done my best to take some pictures of the lantern festival at Kasuga Taisha, or Kasuga shrine, which took place in Nara during Setsubun. The grounds of the shrine are lined with hundreds of stone lanterns. These are lit twice a year. All nearby lights are extinguisehd (save for a few vending machines which seemed incredibly out of place and inordinately bright). The effect is incredible; the stone lanterns, several rows thick in places, fan out into the woods, their hearts glowing like little amber hearts. The forest feels very much alive.

The shrine itself is festooned with bronze lanterns, and these are lit as well.

The gold light reflects off of the vermillion paint, and you literally feel suspended inside an enormous well of gentle red light.

Yes, I realize that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true. If you have the chance to visit Kasuga Taisha during its lantern festivals, I strongly recommend you go.

Wow, this sounds really neat. Thanks for the pics!
I think your pictures are fantastic and offer a lovely mental alternative to the Iowa City winter landscape. Thanks for sharing!

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