When we heard there was a lantern festival going on in the city, we weren’t sure what to expect. Chinese lanterns released into the sky, setting nearby trees and foliage alight? People walking the streets carrying candles singing in a weird drone with an accompanying shamisen (Japanese guitar)? The festival turned out to be neither of these things, but certainly didn’t fail to disappoint us.
Follow the giant footsteps carved into the ground to the top of the mountain, where the landmark Kannonyama stands majestic, watching over the city of Takasaki. From here you can look out on the entire city, the mountains a constant backdrop in the distance. Be careful not to visit the statue with a partner or someone who might have future potential, for legend has it that to view the statue together ensures the relationship will end in a jealous doom.
On the evening of this festival thousands of candles are lovingly arranged all the way along the walk way to the top, guiding you through the dark to where musicians, dancers and food stalls await to entertain you. Lanterns shaped into hearts, archways of candles, and lights illuminating the statue around the base make this an excellent place to come for a relaxing evening with friends.
I’d advise you not to eat before you to turn up as the festival's food stalls are above and beyond the kinds of fare found at your average street festival. Mouth watering Turkish kebabs, Gunma’s famous yaki-manjuu (bread fried with a sweet miso paste) and a strange range of gelato flavors are all available, with benches overlooking the city to sit and chow down on.
The festival is held once a year in mid August. A shuttle bus runs from outside of Takasaki station west exit directly to the top of the mountain where the festival is held, and takes under ten minutes. You’ll have to wait until the sun begins to go down for the candles to be lit, but if you arrive early then I recommend climbing the inside of the statue and peeking out from one of her viewpoints for a glorious birds eye view of the city.