Just a short drive from MCAS Iwakuni, Yanai City transports you to old Japan.
The city was founded as a trading town and was an important station during the feudal period. Today, the city’s “Shirakabe no Michi,” or white-walled street, preserves the historic merchant houses and architectural elements such as lattice doors, paper-covered windows, and of course, the buildings’ white walls.
As you stroll through the neighborhood, you’ll notice many cartoon-style goldfish lanterns hanging from the eaves of buildings. Parents used to make lanterns out of paper and bamboo so that their children could take part in the summer festival. However, the tradition of the goldfish-shaped lanterns was started by the local merchants about 150 years ago!
Today, the goldfish lantern is a symbol of Yanai and one of the most popular handicrafts. This symbol is even the center of the local festival that takes place every summer on August 13th. Yanai’s Kingyo Chochin Matsuri, or Golden Lantern Festival, lights up the city’s streets with nearly 30 giant goldfish lantern carriages parading and over 4,000 goldfish lanterns hanging from the eaves.
After the festival, the lanterns hanging from the eaves are lit at night for a lovely evening stroll.
The area also has a few museums where you can learn about your history. Visit the Shirakabe Gakuyukan Folklore Museum, where you’ll learn about the town’s history and fondness for goldfish lanterns. Also, make plans for the Kanro Shoyu Soy Sauce Museum, where you can taste the famous local condiment.
Kisaka Shobundo stationery store in the district offers various paper products with the popular goldfish symbol. Another cool spot is Fujiyama Coffee Roasters for a delicious coffee-flavored kakigori ice cream or a cup of joe to cool off from the summer heat.
If you want to make a cute goldfish paper lantern as a souvenir, visit the Yanai Saizo Workshop, where you can make a handmade one with instruction from instructors.
Yanai is a beautiful city with a unique tradition of goldfish lanterns. It’s a short 45 minute drive from MCAS Iwakuni, so plan to visit soon!
City of Yanai
Location: 3714-1 Yanai, Yanai City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Tel: 0470-80-1146 (Yanai Tourist Association)