Thursday, 18 March 2010

Kyoto Hanatouro 京都花灯路

When the light of the bamboo weaved lanterns lit up Gion’s stone paved streets and bathed the low, stone and wooden walls, and bamboo fencing in a soft, orange glow, I was instantly transported to a different world, in a different time. “Oideyasu, Hanatouro,” I heard in my head, in a singsong tone that a maiko might speak. “Welcome to Hanatouro.”

The lanterns’ gentle glow against the earthy building materials made me feel especially warm in the cold, winter air. Each street in Gion is quite short and windy, and there was a new view and surprise at every turn. It was a pleasure to guess what shape the next set of lanterns will take, what they will light up and what charming store or restaurant entrance they will showcase.

In contrast to Taipei’s Pingxi lanterns that were sent up to the sky, Hanatouro’s lanterns were fixed to the ground. The Pingxi sky lanterns gave me a feeling of hope as my eyes followed them up to the heavens, while the Hanatouro lanterns gave me a sense of not just nostalgia, but of stability as well as an appreciation of the present and the past.

I’d like to visit Hanatouro again, maybe next time in my kimono, hopefully with a handsome young man also wearing a kimono. But if not, then my yakuza-looking uncle will do too. :)

Notes -
Timing: go on a weekday, otherwise you’d be looking at crowds of people and not lanterns. Hanatouro doesn’t attract incredibly huge crowds of people like the cherry blossoms do, so you can still catch moments when a street is clear of bodies to take pictures, or if you’re just walking around, it’s also very nice to not be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists. The festival is held in December and in March.
Photos: bring a tripod (a point-and-shoot camera will do, but learn how to use Night Mode and how to set a long exposure time.