Local resident reveals the secret spots you won’t want to miss during this breathtaking festival. 

At the beginning of every year, a spectacular lantern festival takes place in Nagasaki Prefecture, and though it used to be a relatively small event, it’s grown to become a big winter gathering that draws tourists from around the country.

Our reporter Mariko Ohanabatake is a local resident who’s seen the festival grow from strength to strength over the years, and while most of the visitors gather around Nagasaki City’s Chinatown area, she recommends heading over to the Tojin Grounds.

▼ The main venue at Chinatown is crowded with visitors.

Though it’s only a three-minute walk from Chinatown, many tourists overlook the Tojin Grounds, but according to Mariko, it’s a spot that locals know not to miss, for its beautiful Chinese atmosphere. 

▼ The way to the Tojin Grounds doesn’t look like much, which is why so many visitors make the mistake of turning back and not venturing deeper here.

▼ The Tojin Grounds is surrounded by walls as it was once a Chinese settlement (“Tojin” means “Chinese person”), back during Japan’s isolation period of 1639 to 1853.

The reason why Mariko recommends heading away from the crowds at Chinatown and over to the Tojin Grounds is because it’s home to four Chinese-style temples, each one beautifully decorated with lanterns.

▼ There’s Dojindo

▼ …Tengodo

▼ …Kannondo

▼ …and Fujian Hall.

These four temples are concentrated in a small area, so you can easily visit all of them in about 20 minutes.

▼ Many locals light a red candle at each of the four temples for good luck.

▼ The lucky colour red can be seen on the lanterns, candles and the temple interiors.

These temples house Chinese deities such as Guan Yu and Mazu (the goddess of the sea and fisheries).

Another secret tip Mariko has for visitors is to check out the alley, which is located around the former site of a public bath called Marugin Onsen.

This area blends Chinese culture with the nostalgia of Japan’s Showa era (1926-1989), and the fact that it’s quiet and away from the crowds makes you forget what country and era you’re in.

With slopes, stairs, culverts, and maze-like back alleys, this is a place visitors won’t want to miss, but it’s still pretty much only known by locals. So shhh…don’t tell anyone we told you about it!

The Nagasaki Lantern Festival is an exciting celebration of Chinese culture and is always timed to coincide with the Chinese New Year. This year’s event runs from 22 January (Chinese New Year) to 5 February, so there are still a few more days to spirit yourself away to the festival, or else mark it on your calendars for next year!

Related: Nagasaki Lantern FestivalNagasaki Tabi Net (Tojin Grounds)
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