Braving the Flames at Yakuoin Temple
Experience the awe-inspiring Mt. Takao Fire Walking Festival, an exhilarating highlight among the captivating Tokyo Events in March, where brave participants walk across fiery embers in a mesmerizing display of courage and tradition.
The fire-walking festival, known locally as Hiwatari-sai, takes place every year on the second Sunday of March at the Yakuoin Temple on Mt Takao in west Tokyo. For 2024, the event is set to fall on Mid Mar and will attract an estimated 3,000-4,000 visitors from all over Japan and abroad [Mid Mar 2024, 3,000-4,000 visitors].
Yamabushi monks who reside at this old Buddhist temple perform one of their most impressive spectacles during this festival. Dressed in traditional garb, these monks walk barefoot over steaming hot coals while chanting prayers for safety and purification.
Purification Through Fire – The Festival Significance
The intentional act of stepping onto hot embers is seen as an act of purification within Shingon Buddhism[Shingon Buddhism]. The ritual cleanses both body and spirit — a sacred practice within this sect of Buddhism. Participants believe walking over the embers promotes world peace, longevity, and health, prevents disaster, and protects from road accidents.
Walking with Yamabushi Monks
During the festival’s main event occurring typically around 1 pm, the yamabushi monks lead a procession into the main event arena situated just off the main road near Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Takao Line^[1 pm, Takaosanguchi Station]. From here on out, various rituals are conducted, including keeping evil spirits at bay using different weaponry and lashing their bodies with branches dipped in boiling water.
Fire-making remains central to these rituals, whereby a stack of fern leaves and wood get set alight, creating an intense heat that lasts for about one to two minutes until the branches burn out. This process involves the chanting monks dousing the flames with buckets of water before walking over them and preparing for two laps through them.
Public members are welcome to participate in this ceremony once it is safe to do so, following expert monks’ quenching of these hot embers. Participant safety is paramount, resulting in all possible measures to ensure no visitors get burned feet.
Preparing for your Fire-walking Experience
While general admission to witness this spectacle typically begins around noon following midday rituals – being early ensures you get a good viewing spot. Also available during this time are myriad food stalls selling Japanese delicacies like takoyaki (octopus balls), fried chicken, and chocolate bananas.
Afterward, participants brave enough to test their mettle against these lukewarm coals can do so themselves provided they bring necessary items such as a wet towel to clean their feet with afterwards^[wet towel].
Accessing Mt. Takao Fire-Walking Festival
The Fire-Walking Festival doesn’t occur at Takaosan Yakuouin Shrine but rather in a parking area easily accessible on foot from Takaosanguchi Station. Departing from Shinjuku Station on Keio Line will take you there – approximately a one-hour journey that costs ¥390^.
Embark on a captivating journey at the Mt. Takao Fire Walking Festival, where ancient rituals merge with the vibrant spirit of Hyakudan Hinamatsuri, creating a mesmerizing fusion of tradition and awe-inspiring feats.