For the nights of August 5-7, the streets of Yuzawa, Akita prefecture, are illuminated with the soft glow of ukiyo-e-esque paintings on paper lanterns for the Tanabata Edoro (Picture Lantern) Festival, a 300-year-old festival that takes place near JR Yuzawa station during Tanabata every year.

Akita is known for having some of the most beautiful women in Japan and the hand-painted paper lanterns do the prefecture justice, portraying illustrations of beautiful Japanese women, often in seductive poses.

Take a look at some of the lanterns from previous years below:

Tanabata is a star festival that takes place on either July 7 or August 7, depending on the region. According to Chinese legend, the heavenly lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, are separated by the Milky Way and only able to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month (July of the Gregorian calendar and August of the lunar calendar).

The most popular Tanabata custom is to write your wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them from bamboo. While the picture lanterns are a custom unique to Yuzawa, the elegant images of beautiful women illuminating the night fit the romantic legend of Tanabata perfectly.

The lanterns are created by Yuzawa locals, who spend over a month preparing the materials, sketching and inking the portraits, and finally painting in the image. After the piece is finished, artists then fit their paintings into a wooden frames and cover them with vinyl to protect them from rain and moisture.

A workshop is held in early May for those who wish to contribute a painting to the festival and participation is open to anyone, even complete beginners.

Check the Yuzawa homepage below for more information.

Source: VIPPER Sokuho, Yuzawa City Homepage (Japanese)

■ Some paintings exhibit more modern styles as well