In the busiest time of the year in Hokkaido, a small town in the center of the prefecture lights up, literally. Over 10,000 paper lanterns fill up the streets in Takikawa, and people from all over the country visit. In a short time, the whole place becomes dedicated to its Paper Lantern Festival, a festival that lasts for only one day in February. The festival started in 2002, and 2019 will be its 17th year.
Takikawa, or “area under the waterfall” in the Ainu language, is a small city of 40,000 people conveniently located in between Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city, and Asahikawa, the prefecture’s second largest city. It is the place where Hokkaido’s popular dish, Jingisukan, a grilled lamb dish, is said to originate. Although it is a small city, there are many things to do there, such as visiting Fureai no Sato hot spring, Takikawa Art and Natural History Museum, and Takikawa Sky Park, a place where you can experience flight in a glider. Its known events are Nanohana Festival, or the Takikawa Canola Flower Festival, in May, along with the Paper Lantern Festival in February.
The festival’s originator is artist Igarashi Takenobu, who was born in Takikawa, and wanted people to make their own artwork. In doing so, he was able to inspire people to celebrate their own creativity. The town now pays homage to his idea, and everyone in town tries their best to make something of their own as they gear up for the event every year. Elementary school students, middle school students, everyone will make a lantern to donate to the festival.
There are many side paths filled with lanterns, but the festival’s most breathtaking part is located on the event’s main street. The warm candle light against the white snow can make for a surreal sight. It almost feels like entering a storybook. Tangled, anyone?
One of the pathways leading out from the main road show some lanterns arranged in different patterns.
Just blocks away from the festival, a woman walks among Takikawa’s walls of snow. Takikawa was known for receiving some of the heaviest snow in Hokkaido in 2018, along with Asahikawa.
Some small food stands selling festival foods are opened on the sidewalks next to the paper lantern paths, and some activities are available for children, but mostly what the festival offers is its beauty. The soft colors of candle light easily makes for the most beautiful view you will see on your winter trip to Hokkaido.
For 2019’s festival dates, please check Takikawa City’s official web page.
See also the Paper Lantern Festival’s official website (in Japanese)
It is one minute on foot from JR Takikawa Station. Takikawa is an hour train ride or an hour and 20 minute drive from Sapporo. The cost for a one-way train ticket is from around 1,300 yen to 3,000 yen, depending on the train line. Takikawa is an hour away from Asahikawa by car, and a 40 to 50 minute train ride. Train tickets from Asahikawa cost around 1,000 yen to 2,700 yen.