Tradition unfolds in a Heated Spectacle.
The time-honored Kurama Fire Festival, also known as Kurama no Hi Matsuri, comes ablaze in the small town of Kurama located to the northern part of Kyoto. Every October 22nd, this fiery spectacle coincides with Kyoto’s Festival of the Ages and welcomes thousands each year to participate in and witness the ceremonial parade. The event is famed for its parade of residents shouldering large flaming torches, transforming the town into a dynamic panorama of burning embers.
During this unusual celebration, you come face-to-face with Japan’s historic narratives and its authentic community spirit – an experience that’s packed more heat than most traditional festivals. It’s one of the most awaited Kyoto events in October.
Thriving under Firelight- A Town comes Alive
The festival is held to commemorate the Yuki-jinja Shrine, moved to Kurama during the undulating years of war in the early Heian period (794-1185). Each participant carrying torches clad only in traditional loincloths represent this resettlement by parading their spirits around town. When hundreds of these torches collectively converging on stone steps leading up to the town’s temple, spectators are drawn into a rhythmic chant “saireyaa, sairyo” reaching a climatic crescendo.
Sparking Youth Participation
Historically, the Kurama Fire Festival was an exclusive rite of passage for young boys from the village community. Today however, due to shrinking demographics, even girls have started participating in carrying pine torches through this gritty procession. They walk behind children bearing smaller torches while adult villagers wielding larger taimatsu torches follow. These enormous torches weigh up to 80 kilograms and can reach lengths up to five meters.
A walk around with these fiery burdens not only serve as rite of passage but also a levelling reminder of community strength and endurance. During this procession shouts erupt in unison injecting energy even as night falls, gradually casting shadows under flickering firelight.
Curating Historic Memorabilia
Tradition also dictates households along the route to display family heirlooms like samurai armor or painted screens during the celebration bringing local history alive in each torchlit window. A remarkable addition to festive décor is kagaribi: small bonfires lit on stands outside traditional homes welcoming parade-goers with their warm glow.
Transporting Deity Shrines
A daunting task during the festival revolves around village men carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) through crowded streets signifying great physical strength . Mikoshi are considered housing for divine spirits and their movement symbolizes transporting these deities among people.
As evening approaches 8 p.m., two mikoshi descend from Yuki Shrine adding another layer of anticipation and awe for spectators’ delight.
A Burning Finale
Wrapping up this unforgettable festivity is a monumental bonfire made from accumulated torches that acts as an emblematic beacon until midnight. Surviving through smoke and enthusiasm that accompanies excitements building towards closure engenders its own allure with visitors thronging for one last spectacle before heading back via Eizan Electric Railway – the sole transportation lifeline for festival goers.
Immerse Yourself Tastefully
Being a part of this ancient festival requires mindful attention as proceedings continue late into night. As guest participants must keep moving throughout due to the huge influx – it’s sensible not just arrive early (as almost 10,000 visitors are expected annually) but also make provisions for your return trip ahead of the last train schedule avoiding post-midnight rush. Keep in mind that chilly October nights at Kurama call for extra layers!
Intriguingly attracting attention beyond Japan’s borders; The Kuruma Fire Festival fiercely persists embodying community resilience amidst shining flames serving spectators an experience that’s both vividly memorable and deeply energizing.
If you want to experience a mesmerizing journey through the rich history of Kyoto and witness the vibrant pageantry of Japan’s past, mark your calendar for Jidai Matsuri, the “Festival of Ages.” Taking place on October 22 each year, this renowned festival offers a grand procession that spans centuries, showcasing accurate costumes and famous figures from various eras of Japanese history.