Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Rain Fails to Dampen Japanese Fire Festival Spirit

Rain Fails to Dampen Japanese Fire Festival Spirit
Kurama Fire Festival in Northern Kyoto


Rain fails to douse giant torches at Kurama’s Fire Festival

Fire and water as a rule generally do not mix as the saying goes. One usually overcomes the other in abundance. Rain has often been the bane of many outdoor-related fire activities from barbeques, to camp fires, to bonfires but the Fire Festival of Mt. Kurama in northern Kyoto refused to be doused despite downpours.


Some of the torches can reach 5-6 meters (15-18 feet) in length


A portable shrine – mikoshi

The Kurama-no-Himatsuri is an ancient festival ritual going back to the late 8th century that come rain or starshine (it’s always at night) is performed every year on Oct. 22. The purpose of the festival is to guide spirits and gods by torchlight along their way through the human world to the spiritual realm. Wayward spirits might remain to cause mischief in our world so the festival served to clear the mountain and the capital below of potentially evil spirits.

Torches of all sizes are carried about the mountain. They range in size from one-handed deals to gargantuan ones that require four or five stout men to carry them. The large torches put off a lot of heat and periodically their bearers are doused with water to keep them from overheating.


A Family’s Treasure on Display

This was my second time at the festival. The first time the mountaintop was crowded with milling residents, tourists, and guiding police. This time the guiding police were still in force but they practically outnumbered the visiting spectators. The reason for this was the rain. For most of the day leading up to the festival, it had been raining quite steadily thus casting a wet blanket over the enthusiasm for visitors to make the journey up the mountain.


An impressive old family heirloom

I almost gave into the suffocating effect of the wet blanket preferring a warm cafe to a cold wet mountain. Fortunately, I was able to cast the blanket off and force myself to make the journey. Not long afterwards, I was quite happy that I had made the effort. Absent were the throngs of visitors that cluttered up the train and mountaintop the last time I had visited. The spirit of the festival, however, was undampened being still “fiery” as ever and this time I could be closer to the action.

Adding to the fun and the surrealness of it all were the number of attending Tengu – Japanese goblins. Kurama’s famous mythical denizen is the Tengu which come in two shapes – redskinned long nose goblins or winged crow-headed goblins. The long-nose goblins make for popular masks and quite a few people were sporting these.


A Tengu Goblin on the way back from Kurama’s Fire Festival

As for the rain, from time to time it did come down but it was only a minor inconvenience. The great torches sputtered and crackled but did not go out. The amount of smoke was considerable though due to this.


Koff! Koff! Must be in the the smoking section!

After the torches reached the shrine, a large bonfire was constructed. Then two large mikoshi – portable shrines – were brought down the steep path from the temple. On their backs rode two men in samurai armor sans helmet. The mikoshi bearers rocked the shrines up and down seemingly trying to knock the fellows off. All around them carrying regular-sized torches were men, women, and children singing the festival’s age-old chant of “sei-rei, sei-ryo!” which means something like “festival, good festival!”

And indeed despite the weather, it was a good festival and I was glad I had made it.


shouldering a hot heavy load

https://samuraidave.wordpress.com/2007/03/20/japanese-fire-festival-on-kyotos-mt-kurama/

November 18, 2008 - Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, fire, fire festival, japan, japanese culture, kurama-no-himatsuri, Kyoto, life, mt. kurama, travel, video, vlog, weird, youtube | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: