Warm summer evening, Shinto shrine with assistants handing out slips of paper telling your fortune (for a small fee), hundreds of washi paper lanterns created by amateur and professional artists, a crowd murmuring in the candlelight, the sound of digital cameras: the scene at the Bonbori festival at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura.

At the link above, it says the lanterns are lit with electric bulbs, but a good portion of the ones I saw had real candles in them (as you can see later in the photo of the fish lantern). Some lanterns, in fact, were dark because the candle had been blown out by the wind. The lantern art covered the whole Japanese aesthetic from manga (cartoons) to shodo (calligraphy), from tooth-numbingly cutesy kitsch to Zen profound.

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