Goldfish Lanterns and Indigo Dyeing in Yanai

Are you looking for something different to do on a rainy or cold day? Or even an easy day trip when the weather is nice? Then head to Yanai. Yanai is a city in Yamaguchi prefecture, and it is home to the goldfish lantern festival that occurs annually on August 13th. During the lantern festival the city streets are lined with over 2,000 lighted paper goldfish lanterns. There are also other events and activities you can participate in or view during the festival. While the lantern festival is a great way to see this lovely town, the city’s cobblestone streets are always lined with paper goldfish lanterns outside homes, restaurants, and businesses. And the small shops sell local artisan’s crafts or goldfish collectibles.

You might wondering why goldfish lanterns? Many, many years ago Yanai was a booming merchant town. It is said that over 150 years ago the local merchants made paper goldfish lanterns to entertain the children of the town. The merchants used washi, Japanese paper, to make the goldfish lanterns. Today, you can make your very own paper goldfish lantern at Yanai Nishigura made out of washi.

Upon entering the building, with hanging goldfish lanterns, you will choose which size goldfish lantern you would like to make and pay. You will then head to a table where you will receive all of the materials you will need to construct your lantern. The body of the fish is already made for you. It is made from bamboo and Japanese paper. There’s an instructional sheet that you can view to help you through the process. Since no one else was there when we went, the kind gentleman walked us through the entire process.

First, you practice using the paintbrush and red dye on a scrap piece of paper. Then, you draw the lines on the fish fins and tail.

The next step is to place the eye stickers on the fish and draw the outline of the eyes and eyelashes with the red dye.

Next, you put the glue on the tail and fins and place them on the fish body. Finally, you use a black mark to make a mark on each side of the fish’s body.

The finished goldfish lanterns.
Watch the girls make their goldfish lantern from start to finish!

While our goldfish were drying, the man helped the girls make origami goldfish. After making the origami goldfish, we walked the streets to explore the tiny shops and stopped to eat lunch at one of the restaurants. We also visited a building where soy sauce is made and you can buy various different soy sauces.

While we walking the streets we enjoyed the decorated manhole covers and finding crabs in the street gutters.

We went back to Yanai Nishigura after lunch to either weave coasters or indigo dye a cloth. These options are available from 1300-1600. We all decided to do the indigo dyeing. We chose our cloth size and paid the ladies who would help us through the process.

First, we chose the pattern we wanted to make by using the marbles and rubber bands.

Then, we put on aprons, soaked the cloths in water, and placed them into the large bucket of indigo dye. The ladies let the girls stir the container for about 3 minutes.

Next, one of the ladies removed the clothes from the bucket and placed them into bins in the sink. She showed the girls how to wash the dye covered cloths. Afterwards, they dried the cloths so we could take them home.

The final product.

This was a very kid friendly day trip that is about 45 minutes from Iwakuni. The craft activities are enjoyable for both adults and children. They are open Wednesday through Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and they are closed on Tuesdays.

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