NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉


鳥羽神明社の火祭り Toba-shinmeisha-no-hi-matsuri Himatsuri (the Fire Festival) of Toba Shinmeisha Shrine

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Himatsuri (the fire festival) of Toba Shinmeisha Shrine in Hazu Town in Aichi Prefecture is known as one of the most extraordinary festivals in Japan, which annually takes place on the second Sunday of February (Traditionally held on January 7th on the old calendar). The exact origin of this festival is unknown today; however, it is estimated that it dates back about 1200 years. It was designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2004.

Two large torches called “Suzumi,” which are about 5 m tall, are built at the centre of the precinct on the eve of the festival. Inside each massive pile are “Shinboku (holy tree)” and 12 ropes representing the 12 months of the year.

At around 3:00 P.M. on the festival day, the two “Shin-Otoko (holy men),” the men at unlucky age of 25, and the two teams of men, consisting of the residents of the local Toba area and divided into the West “Fukuji (the prosperous land)” and the East “Kanji (the dry land)” run into the ocean to purify their body and mind in the ice cold water.

The festival reaches its climax at around 7:30 in the evening, when the two Shin-Otoko light a fire at the top of the two torches with the traditional “Hiuchi-ishi (fire-striking stone)”. When the torches become great bonfires, the Shin-Otoko and the helpers bravely jump into the flame. The men desperately compete against each other until they take the holy tree and the 12 ropes out and offer them at the altar of the shrine. The sheer sight of brave men is simply overwhelming.

The purpose of the festival is to forecast the climate and the harvest of the coming year. It is said that the victory of the “Fukuji” ensures rain and a good harvest in the mountains, while, if the “Kanji” wins, there will be famine and disaster.

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Aza-Higashirokutanda, Hazu-cho, Hazu-gun, Aichi Prefecture 444-0700
Toba Shinmeisha Shrine

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