>> Candle Night in Solviva Organic Farm--Lights of Soil, Lights of Winds
>> Turn off the Lights and Watch the Stars on October 17--Lights-Down Event in Kofu Valley
>> Candle Night Summer Solstice 2009--Report on June 21
>> Event report: Dim It 2009--Hong Kong
>> Enjoy the Starlight--The International Year of Astronomy 2009
>> Event: 'Dim It' in Hong Kong-- Lights-out Event on June 21 (Updated)
>> Many People Enjoyed Candle Night--Candle Night Saskatchewan, Canada
>> Brief Report on Candle Night December 2008
>> Candle Night in Slovenia--Event Report in December 2009
>> Candle Night in Zenryouji Temple--'Go home make a wish'
>> Recreating Ancient Night of 'Heian' Dynasty--Lights-down at Kyoto Gyoen Forests
>> Event Report: Dim It--Hong Kong
>> Event Report: Lights Out Day in China
>> Event Report: Lights Out Day--Taiwan
>> Event Report: Candle Night Korea
>> Over 65,000 Facilities to Join--MOE's Lights Down Campaign
>> Event Update: Candle Night Korea
>> Brief Report of Candle Night Winter Solstice 2007
>> Artist's Performances--Candle Night in Governador Valadares, Brazil
>> Getting the Candle Night Message Across to the World--Fuji Xerox Co.
>> A Family's Wishes on Candle Night--The Story of Ivory
>> Effects of MOE's "Lights Down" Campaign June 2007
>> Candle Night in Taipei 2007
>> Candle Night Summer Solstice 2007 in Tokyo
>> MOE's 'Lights Down Campaign'--Black Illumination 2007
>> Mauritius held the 2nd Candle Night.
>> "Five-minute Action" took place in Europe, Feb 1, 2007
>> Reports from Overseas--December 2006
>> Candle Night Winter Solstice 2006--Kobe, Japan
>> Preparation also Underway in Candlelight--South Korea Winter 2006
>> A Brief Report of Candle Night Summer Solstice 2006
>> MOE's Black Illumination 2006
>> National Candle Night in Mauritius 2006
>> Milk Carton Lanterns Lighting up Kumamoto
>> Beeswax candle workshop and volunteer meeting at JFS
>> Candle Night Winter Solstice 2006--Rikkyo University
>> A Living Organism--Candle Night in Sapporo 2005
>> Candle Night in Shanghai 2005
>> Greetings to Candle Nighters on the other side of the world.
>> Candle Night in South Korea 2005
>> Candle Night at Harajuku Cat Street
>> 'Candle Night'-Summer Solstice 2004 in Japan

'Candle Night'-Summer Solstice 2004 in Japan

Shinichi Takemura

The trend in which people seek a new sense of values and lifestyles beyond the civilization of mass production and mass consumption in the 20th century have been gaining momentum among Japanese citizens. One example that symbolizes this trend is the Candle Night event.

Under the slogan of "Turn off your lights, and take it slow," for two hours on the summer solstice, the Candle Night event started on June 22, 2003. This voluntary participatory event was originally initiated by several Japan's environmental non governmental organizations.

Responding to calls from the Candle Night committee, various groups such as the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), businesses, municipal governments and public facilities as well as artists in a variety of fields across Japan showed support for the event. Thus, the movement gained momentum and its popularity among the citizens swelled. According to an estimate by the MOE, a total of 5 million people nationwide participated in the event in 2003. Over 200 major landmark facilities, such as the Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge and Himeji Castle, turned their lights off. The Candle Night became one of the major summer events.

NEC Corporation, one of the major manufactures of electrical machinery in Japan, participated in the event on a company-wide basis, with about ten million employees and their family members. Iwate prefectural government also joined the event with all of its prefectural citizens. In this way, large numbers of businesses and local governments expressed their support for the events. It is a clear example showing cooperation and collaboration among the public sector, private businesses and citizens. This has become a major trend and is now more common in Japan.

In this year's "Candle Night-Summer Solstice 2004" event, more than 5,000 major facilities turned off their lights and convenience stores across Japan voluntarily turned off their signs. During the three day (Saturday-Monday) 2004 Candle Night, an estimated 6.5 million peopled joined the event.

Last year, many unique local candle events were also held across the country. During their Candle Night event, some towns established their own traditional "light"-scape, while others decided to do a Candle Night every weekend to add to local charm.

Our Candle Night does not place any specific rules on participants. It only encourages them to turn off the lights voluntarily and to enjoy something different and unusual for two hours. The idea of our initiative originated from the Voluntary Blackout movement that started in the United States, but our approach is not limited to energy saving nor power saving.

In fact, many people joined the Candle Night with strong hopes for peace and a clean global environment. However this event is symbolic. Rather than striving to attain a specific goal such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it simply gives people an opportunity to review and rethink their lifestyles and themselves during these two hours.

The style of participating in this event, therefore, varies from person to person. Some people focus on strengthening and reconfirming their family bond by taking extra time to enjoy dinner slowly, or taking a bath together. Others go to events such as the Candle Concert, or find themselves re-appreciating the beauty of stars alone in the darkness of downtown. On our website, a truck driver announced his intention to turn off his engines while parked.

The Candle Night event does not focus on attaining any specific goals collectively. Rather, it tries to offer participants an opportunity to discover a new sense of values, or offer an alternative lifestyle for their future. The Candle Night Committee hopes that the event can provide participants with a platform where people can join it at their own will and way.

Sharing the concept without having any specific "rules" may be one example of the Japanese way of thinking. We are sure that by expanding the scope of potential participants, the event has gained the popularity from people of all ranks, beyond regional borders and generations. Another typically Japanese element is the use of cell phones for joining and enjoying this event. This integrates the cutting-edge IT based community with the slower-paced environmentally aware movement.

The committee invited participants to send messages via the internet several weeks before the event. The "Candlescape" platform can monitor how the participants across Japan have increased on a real-time basis. Participants visited the Candlescape website (http://www.candle-night.org/2004/jp/apply/index.html), and sent their messages and their postal code. With the use of postal codes, the system can identify the participant's location and can visualize it on the map of Japan.

Through this map-typed message board, the participants can realize the link with other numerous participants scattered all over Japan. They can share a sense of unity with an invisible community, a so-called a virtual community, where people are linked to each other by a new sense of value.

This network-based participation was enhanced by another web-based program, the "Candle Kaleidoscope," also available on our website. "Candle Kaleidoscope" was a real-time online message board for pictures. Participants sent photographs of their Candle Night taken by mobile phone cameras via e -mail, and those photos appeared on the board on a real time basis. The boards became a mandala-like photo gallery of various images of the Candle Night event. Please visit our website http://www.candle-night.org/2004/index.html, click "Kaleidoscope," and you can find the 2004 Kaleidoscope.

Some participants sent pictures of family and friends with a Haiku. Haiku is a form of traditional Japanese poetry, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The art of Haiku or traditional space of light and shadow generated by candle light were revitalized through electrical network.

The next event is the "Candle Night"-Winter Solicits 2004. This is not a large-scaled event like in the summer, but grass-root, voluntary movement for the winter event has already started in many places. In our next news letter, we will report the result of the winter event.

Shinichi Takemura
Promoter of Candle Night
Anthropologist, Professor at Kyoto University of Art & Design

December 10, 2004