Who wants to light paper balloons (lanterns) in the winter? ??
The Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival is a traditional winter event held in the Kamihinokinai district of Nishiki town, Semboku City, located in the eastern part of Akita Prefecture. Every year on February 10th, participants write their wishes on paper balloons and watch as they float up into the dark night sky. The large paper balloons are as long as 8 meters. About 100 balloons are launched every year. Similar to hot-air balloons, the paper balloons float up from the heated air inside. Many balloons have samurai or geisha designs drawn on them inspired by traditional woodblock prints.
It’s hard to know the exact origins, but the festival is said to have started in the Edo period (1603-1868). It stopped around World War ll and restarted again in 1974. The Semboku area is surrounded by mountains and is somewhat isolated from other towns. The people in the town originally sent the paper balloons into the sky for the gods with messages written on them, wishing for bountiful rice harvests.
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