– Bamboo Lantern Festival (Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture) –
In Kanagawa Prefecture, community groups are already playing an important role in managing, and conserving bamboo forests while using them as a symbol for enlivening communities, under the leadership of a non-profit organization, NPO Japan Bamboo Fan Club. On October 25, 2014, the NPO held the 11th Bamboo Lantern Festival at Kozukue-joshi Shimin-no-Mori park in Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and turned the park into a stadium of stars.
More than 5,000 bamboo lanterns were used to create the fantastic sceneries along the walkways in the bamboo forest of approximately 2,000 square meters. Volunteers lit all the floating candles in the lanterns almost at the same time just before the sun went down. After the sunset, the forest was filled with warm orange candle light. Approximately 2,400 visitors enjoyed the festival, gazing at the site saying that it’s like a trip to outer space.
The venue is located on a hill surrounded by houses and farmlands. It’s managed by the club for Yokohama City. Involvement of the club and its volunteer members in the activity to control the number of bamboos in the park started in 2003. The Bamboo Lantern Festivals actually serve as a mean to make good use of bamboos they cut for the forest thinning.
Bamboo is closely connected to Japanese culture, but it’s strong enough to spread into surrounding areas. The club was established in 1999 when a group of local volunteers helped streamline bamboo forests in Kanagawa Prefecture. Currently it has approximately 200 members, mostly in their sixties, from Yokohama City and other areas. Working in coordination with local governments, it now manages six bamboo forests, 11,000 square meters in total, in Kanagawa and Shizuoka Prefectures.
It now holds a wide variety of events using, for example, bamboo shoots and bamboo-made instruments. It sometimes give lectures on bamboo grove preservation. The Bamboo Lantern Festival is definitely the highlight to appeal the beauty of bamboo to the public. It’s held at four different places this year, including the ones run by other organizations with a support of the fan club.
“Spreading the activities to other places to continue turning more ‘troublemakers’ into “stars, is our dream,” Shinji Hiraishi, President of the Japan Bamboo Fan Club, said ambitiously.
(Nov. 2, 2014)