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Japan light festival expanded to feudal lord's estate, castle ruins to illuminate disaster recovery

Images of a feudal lord's family are seen projected on a gate at the remains of the Matsushiro Castle in the central Japan city of Nagano, on Oct. 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Yuichi Nishigori)

NAGANO -- The family estate of a former feudal lord and the remains of a castle are among spots in this central Japan city now included in an annual festival of lights, expanded this year to areas hit hard by a 2019 typhoon and the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

    The Nagano Design Week illumination event is usually held along Zenkoji Omotesando street, a main thoroughfare in the city of Nagano, but will also have displays this year in the Matsushiro and Togakushi areas. The festival's opening ceremony was held on Oct. 30 at the former family estate of the Sanada clan, which ruled the Matsushiro domain during the Edo period (1603-1868).

    The house's garden was lit up following a countdown, and guests were later treated to a violin performance. Projection-mapped images featuring the Sanada family and the battle of Kawanakajima, fought nearby during Japan's warring states period, were displayed on the walls of the Sanada family storehouses plus the gate of the ruins of Matsushiro Castle. Tourists and locals were seen gazing at the images, including a couple in their 60s from the city of Niigata who told the Mainichi that they had come to the area in the daytime before, but that the light show gave the place a different and impressive atmosphere.

    Nagano Design Week was launched in 2018 to promote the area's charms with the help of visual design. Although the Typhoon Hagibis disaster nearly forced the cancellation of last autumn's event, organizers determined to "share a lively Nagano" managed to put it on in February 2020 instead, illuminating Zenkoji Omotesando street with some 300,000 lights.

    The event's third outing will be run from Nov. 7 to March 13, 2021, along Zenkoji Omotesando. The event will also run until Nov. 3 in the Matsushiro area that suffered damage from Typhoon Hagibis, as well as from Feb. 20 to March 7 next year in Togakushi, which has suffered significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Nagano Municipal Government will be accepting crowdfunding donations until Nov. 6 to help cover the event, and will give donors products from typhoon-hit areas, including jam made in the Naganuma district, apples produced in the Toyono district, and locally brewed Matsushiro sake.

    (Japanese original by Yuichi Nishigori, Nagano Bureau)

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