Tomyo Lantern Festival: Nagano’s Olympic Legacy Lives On
Since 2004, Nagano has celebrated its Olympic heritage with the annual Tomyo Lantern Festival. Beginning on the second Saturday of February, the festival runs for one week and sees the city’s historic Zenko-ji Temple bathed in light with countless ‘kiri-e’ or paper-cut lanterns lining the road to the temple.
The word ‘tomyo’ means to give light to the Buddha – an important act of thanks, humility and merit-earning in Buddhism. During the festival, the temple is bathed in light and the surrounding streets – home to many ‘shukubo’ (Buddhist guesthouses) – place light installations in their courtyards, imbuing the winters night with a magical quality.
On the road leading to the temple – known as the ‘Omotesando’ or ‘Pilgrims’ Way’ – beautiful paper-cut lanterns light the way. Designed by local artists, hobbyists, and school students, these lanterns are adorned with four images on their sides and back-lit by a candle, setting a magical, shimmering atmosphere in the cold winter night, leading visitors toward the temple and its hidden Buddha statue.
The temple itself is bathed in the Olympic colours, a humble celebration of Nagano’s heritage and pride in having hosted the XVIII Winter Olympics.
Attend the Festival on a Guided Tour
Visitors wanting to experience the festival in conjunction with a visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, can do so on our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Tomyo Lantern Festival Tour. Including pickup and drop-off in both Hakuba and Nagano, this family-friendly tour transports you to the world-famous Snow Monkey Park followed by attendance at the festival.
In the cold winter night, you will be treated to warm and indulgent meal at Monzen Terrace Enya. Located within easy walking distance, Enya is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious winter meal before ending the tour where you started – at either Nagano Station or Hakuba.
Led by a locally-based, English-speaking guide, this is one of our most enjoyable and beautiful tours of the year.
Monzen Terrace Enya
For visitors attending the festival by themselves, we recommend Monzen Terrace Enya – a perfect place to grab a warming snack, drink or meal. Less than 2-minutes walk from the temple entrance, Enya is known for its mixed Japanese and Western menu, modern setting and friendly service.
English-speaking staff and English menus are on-hand to ensure your experience is easy and enjoyable, with Enya offering the treat of outdoor winter igloos to dine and drink in. On nights of snow, these are popular spots from where guests can enjoy the magic of winter.
But of course, what matters most is food! Enya prides itself on using the best produce from local farms and fresh seafood from the nearby coastal markets of Niigata. So whether you’re in the mood for sit-down meal or quick snack and drink on the go, Monzen Terrace Enya is a Snow Monkey Resorts favourite and perfect restaurant to enjoy while attending the Tomyo Lantern Festival.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that Nagano is home to more than 80 ski resorts? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.