The Chikuraku Festival

A festival born out of necessity

20 years ago, residents of the city of Taketa 竹田 in Oita Prefecture came up with an ingenious solution to protect their bamboo forests, an important resource which had supported them for generations. Bamboo forests require regular cutting to maintain them in good condition, but with the dwindling demand for bamboo as cheap substitute materials became available in modern times, there was far less motivation to cut them, and the forests were slowly deteriorating as a result. So, the residents thought of creating a festival around bamboo lanterns, thus creating a new reason for cutting down and maintaining their forest and attracting tourists to their city at the same time.

Thus began the Taketa Bamboo Lantern Festival, otherwise known as the Chikuraku Festival.

Starting with just 3,000 lanterns, the festival has now grown into one of the biggest attractions of the city, with over 20,000 lanterns illuminating the city center for 3 nights in November.

Likely to continue for at least 100 years

If you think 20 years is a good track record, Taketa City is only just getting started. It's going to take a long-term investment to protect their bamboo forest for generations to come.

Takashi Inoue, who chairs an NPO focused on bamboo forest conservation, explains:

We have 540 hectares (1,334 acres) of bamboo forest, and out of that, we estimated we'd need 4 hectares (9.9 acres) to make 20,000 bamboo lanterns. Doing a very rough division, that makes 100, so it was clear to us that just 5 or 10 years wouldn't do; we'd need to continue the festival for 100 years if we wanted to conserve the forest.

Takashi Inoue, interview with Sankei News

Experience the Chikuraku Festival

If you're planning a trip to Japan, why not stop by Taketa City to experience this magical festival of lights and bamboo.

You can find out more about the Chikuraku Festival here.

By - Ben K.