By Nicole Bauer
The subway stations in Tokyo have shelves displaying various leaflets and brochures about Tokyo. You can find guides about orientating around the subway or on upcoming exhibitions or festivals. For first time or repeat visitors to this metropolis, these free guides and tips can be invaluable. These guides are updated every month and many recommended events are free.
One of the leaflets that caught my attention was for the festival called “A Million People's Candle Night”: The events' leaflet left me with a deep impression, advocating the need for environmental protection in the center of Tokyo. Held on the eve of the summer’s Solstice, the festival was first held in 2002. The event organizers hope that people can turn off their lights and use candles instead from 8pm to 10pm.
During this time, people can reflect on their place in the environment,and what they can do to lighten their footprint on this planet. In one of the leaflets, it said that “In the darkness, people's faces are like mirrors reflecting candlelight. In the flickering candlelight, their expressions show what they are thinking about at that moment. Some may remember joyful memories; others may reflect on days gone by with bittersweet memories.”
Although June in Tokyo is known for its rainy days, called “plum rain season” in Japanese, the persistent rain this year didn’t dampen the guests’ enthusiasm. As umbrellas aren’t allowed within the main area of the temple, the nearby convenience stores had sold out of raincoats. Even people without raincoats came, just to gaze at the candles' lights in front of the Zojoji Temple.
Other people stood in the front temple gate to take shelter from the rain. Despite the crowds, everyone lined up in an orderly manner, with candles being placed on the stairs. The countdown to 8 o’clock had begun. As the clock struck eight, Tokyo Tower turned off its lights to support the event.
A Million People's Candle Night also had a line-up of notable guests. After the illuminations were turned off, the musician Hanaregumi appeared on stage and sang for an hour.
The events were over at 9pm and the visitors started to leave orderly. The events conclusion did not dampen the visitors’ glow. It was like they had forgotten about the rain and took in the outdoor atmosphere under the evening sky.
Zojoji Temple is right in front of the Tokyo Tower, just 10 minutes’ walk from Exit 1 of Kamiyacho station, part of the Tokyo Metro subway network. From the temple, the huge Tokyo Tower is right in front of you, a beautiful sight at day or night. I can barely imagine the wonder when they first built the Tower in the 1950s. Then the highest point in the city, it must have inspired joy and hope for that generation. These days, come again and rediscover the warmth of a million candle lights.
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