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Bamboo and Lights

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 7, 2010

November 6, 2010

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candles in bamboo

My First Festival in Oita Prefecture

This weekend Mark and I went to the Bamboo Lantern Festival in Usuki (Usuki-Takeyoi) (うすき竹宵), the town just south of Oita City. It was very beautiful! It must have taken a lot of people to carve all the bamboo and to light so many tealight candles.

Usuki Bamboo Lantern Festival

Driving is the only real option.

We were told that parking would be hard to find in town during the festivities, and that taking the train would be the easier option. But I hate taking the train here. A trip that takes 20 minutes by car, could take 2 hours by train and bus.

Everyone loves taking photos!

Free Parking

Mark and I car pooled with our neighbors to Usuki. Parking was not a problem at all. We just parked at City Hall. There was plenty of parking spaces and it was free.

We walked around town and saw the many displays. We went up the Usuki Castle before getting some festival food from the food stalls.

The Festival food court

We were a little disappointed in both the Hiroshima okonomiyaki and the takoyaki. The okonomiyaki had too much over powering sauce and the takoyaki didn’t have enough octopus in it.

Festival Friends

Where did everyone go?

After eating we walked down Nioza Street, the historical road. There were more pretty lights and displays and a couple temples. It was also very crowded.

This was where everyone got lost and/ or separated from the group. We all managed to find each other again. It’s hard to not find a large group of foreigners in a small Japanese town.

Why are they sad? It’s a festival!

Aka San (Mrs. Red)

The train is a lot more expensive than driving. I drive to work now. To make sure I have enough gas to get to work and back I fill up once every other week. It cost about 3,000YEN to fill my tank. To commute to work by public transportation for 2 weeks costs me 8,160YEN. Of course the public transportations price is just to get to work, but the gas cost also includes my going to the grocery store and excursions on the weekends.

The first time I saw Mrs. Red.

I first saw Aka San during my second week in Oita. I knew that I needed a car and that afternoon one of my co-workers would be taking me out to hunt for a car. I snapped a picture of her (the car), just in case I didn’t find anything on my hunt.

I didn’t find anything on my hunt. All the cars we saw were too expensive, to unreliable, or too small. The price on the car is usually nowhere near the price you will end up paying. Taxes, tags, and other mysterious costs end up doubling the asking price. I found a car for 30,000YEN (about $300), but before I could drive it I would have to pay a total of 400,000YEN (about $4,000).

Then I showed my co-worker my photo of Mrs. Red. Her price was 90,000YEN ($900) and she was being sold by a mechanic shop within walking distance of my apartment. My co-worker took me to the mechanic and did the negotiating for me.

The total price, which included tax, tags, and a year’s worth of mandatory insurance and optional insurance, which is actually mandatory for JETs, was 150,000YEN (about $1,500). It’s a small car, but I manage to squeeze my friends into it.

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to askwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Usuki City

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°07’33.8″N 131°48’18.8″E

By Car –

  • Take the Higashi-Kyushu Expressway. It’s free to drive on south of Oita. Get off at the Usuki exit which I think is 16.
  • UPDATE: As of June 20 no part of the Higashi-Kyushu Express is free

By Train –



  • During festivals and non-business hours, you can park at the city hall parking lot safely and for free. (33°07’32.3″N 131°48’19.9″E)

Usuki Castle 

How to get there:

  • 33°07’17.4″N 131°48’14.8″E

It is within walking distance from the train station.

  • Walk down the main road from the train station and turn left at the first light.
  • When you get to a big-ish intersection turn right.
  • You can’t miss it.
Or go to Usuki Station.



  • Free


  • Always available


This is a great place to see during the lantern festival.


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