Winter

The Best 10 Fire Festivals in Japan: Where to Enjoy Fire Matsuri?

Sosuke

Sato

Writer

Have you ever been to any fire festival in Japan? Actually, there are many festivals where people use fire to wish for their safety and prosperity. In this article, I will introduce you to some of the best fire festivals in Japan. I hope you can find a good festival to visit!


What Is Fire Festival?

Fire festival, we Japanese call it “Himatsuri”(火祭り the festival with fire. There are different kinds of fire and each area has its unique style of using it.
Most of the fire festivals are held in winter. So you have to prepare warm clothes, gloves, and so on. Especially in the north of Japan, it may be snowing and the temperature will be less than 0 degrees Celsius. If you want to visit the festival in winter, I strongly recommend you to pay attention also to this fact.

Contents

Fire Festivals in Winter

1. Donto Matsuri in Miyagi

2. Omiya Shrine Arai Festival in Chiba

3. Fire Waving Festival in Akita

4. Daizenji Oniyo Fire Festival in Fukuoka

5. Oto Festival in Wakayama

Fire Festivals in Other Seasons

6. Tsugaru City Umaichi Festival in Aomori

7. Nanmoku Ohinata No Hitoboshi in Gunma

Unique Fire Festivals in Japan Fujiki

8. Dososhin Festival in Yamanashi

9. Kouzaki Temple Himatsuri in Chiba

10. Gozan no Okuribi in Kyoto

How to Enjoy Fire Festival

Q&A

Closing Remarks

[Fire Festivals in Winter]

 

1. Donto Matsuri in Miyagi

Donto Matsuri or Donto Festival is a winter festival in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. This festival is held on 14th January every year. Thus, people in Sendai City hold this festival for the safety of the year. Also, at this festival, you can enjoy seeing the dance performance by people who are almost naked even it is winter! It is exciting!

Details and Access

Actually, Donto Matsuri takes place at several famous shrines. However, the main venue is Osaki Hachimangu Shrine which is the biggest shrine in Miyagi Prefecture. To get to Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, I recommend you to use JR trains. There are two stations close to the shrine. One is Kunimi Station on JR Senzan Line. From the station, you can get to the shrine in 15 minutes by walk. The other one is Tohoku Fukushi University Mae Station on JR Senzan Line. It also takes 15 minutes to get Osaki Hachimangu Shrine from the station. You can also use local buses. You have to get off at Osaki Hachimangu Shrine Mae Bus Stop on Sendai municipal bus #10 or #15 from the bus station at the West exit of Sendai Station.
For more info on Donto Festival,  click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4558/

2. Omiya Shrine Arai Festival in Chiba

Omiya Shrine Arai Festival is one of the traditional festivals in Chiba Prefecture. It has been held for over 150 years. The festival takes place in Omiya Shrine(大宮神社). The town is blessed with rich natural and historic places. At the festival, people get together to prepare for the celebration. They also prepare a meal and eat the special meal at first. After the meal, the main festival starts. Shinto priests are going to the shrine. While they are heading there, children try to prevent them to reach to the shrine by throwing radishes. Before reaching the shrine, children set a fire to a temporary house in front of the shrine’ gate. The house is usually made of Japanese nutmeg and bamboo trees by children. So you can enjoy watching the process of how those priests reach to Omiya Shrine.

Details and Access to Omiya Shrine

Omiya Shrine Arai Festival is held from 11 am to 3 pm on 14th of December. The main event of throwing radishes is around 1 pm. You can join at the festival for free and can also enjoy having the celebration meal together with other participants. The place of this fire festival is Omiya Shrine, Sanbu-gun, Shibayama-machi, Chiba Prefecture. In order to get to the shrine, you can use shuttle buses from Narita Airport terminal 2 to Shibayama Chiyoda Station for about 15~30 minutes. After that, you can take a local bus for Matsuo Station and get off at Yamada Bus Stop. You can walk to the shrine from the bus stop for around 10 minutes.
For more information on Omiya Shrine Arai Festival, click here: URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4233/

3. Fire Waving Festival in Akita

Fire Waving Festival(火振りかまくら)is a festival taking place in Senboku City, Akita Prefecture. It’s actually a traditional festival, as it has been going on for over 400 years, and is designated as the culture property of Senboku. At this festival, people weave straws tied to ropes and put fire on them. So, they swing around those straws to flee away bad spirits and to wish for fertility, safety, and health. You can enjoy seeing this fantastic performance with snow at the festival.  Rings of fire with the glowing snow view in the darkness are really magical! If you pay 500 Japanese yen, you can buy a straw rope and enjoy swinging it around as well! Moreover, people at the festival serve sweet drinks made from red beans called Oshiruko,(おしるこ). So, you can get warm with the drinks during the festival!

Details and How to Access to Fire Waving Festival

Fire Waving Festival is held on 13th and 14th February every year. It starts at around 5 pm. The place of this festival is Sakura Namiki Parking Lot, in Senboku City, Akita Prefecture. To get to the place, you should use trains. Kakunodate Station(角館駅)is the closest station.
For more information on Fire Waving Festival in Akita, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4132/

4. Daizenji Oniyo Fire Festival in Fukuoka

Oniyo Fire Festival takes place at Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine to drive away evil spirits. It is famous for being one of Japan’s major three fire festivals and they are important cultural assets.

This festival starts at around 1 pm, but the fire show is the main event of the festival. It starts late in the afternoon when darkness falls. At the main event, a group of 20 men, from children to the elderly, carry torches and lanterns. Then, at 9 pm, all of the lights around the shrine go out. The torches are very unique, and probably you have never seen anything similar before. They are up to 1 meter in diameter and 13 meters in length. They are so memorable! Besides this performance, you can also enjoy eating various foods because there are many food stalls at this festival as at most festivals in Japan. You will definitely find something hot in order to keep you warm.

Details and Access to Daizenji Oniyo Fire Festival

Oniyo Fire Festival starts at around 1 pm on 7th January. However, the fire and torches are available when it gets dark, mainly around 9 pm on the same day. The place of this festival is Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine, in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. The place is easy to reach in several different ways. By car, it’s around an hour from Hakata via Kyushu expressway and there are enough parking spaces for 300 vehicles. You can also take trains to get there. You should go to Daizenji Station on Nishi Nihon Railway Line. Then, you should walk to the shrine for about 5 minutes.
For more information on Daizenji Oniyo Fire Festival, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1391/

 

5. Oto Festival in Wakayama

Image courtesy of panpanzupan

 

Oto Festival is a fire festival in Wakayama Prefecture. It takes place at Kamikura Shrine(神倉神社)in Shingu City. At this festival, there is an event where people go down the stone stairs with torches. Only men can join the event. The participants of this event are called “Noboriko”(上り子)and they have to prepare for a week before the date of the event. For preparation, people who are going to join the event must eat only something white, such as rice, tofu, etc. You can enjoy seeing people rushing down the stairs with torches. A total number of stairs is 538, so it is very exciting!

Details Access to Oto Festival

Oto Festival takes place on 6th February every year. The festival starts at 5 pm, and the main event is that men go downstairs starts at around 8 pm. You can see the festival for free.  The place of Oto Festival is Kamikura Shrine, in Shingu City, Wakayama Prefecture. To get to the shrine, it’s better to use JR Kinokuni Line. You should get off at Shingu Station. You can walk to the shrine from the station within 15 minutes.

 

[Fire Festivals in Other Seasons]

Although fire festivals are mainly held in winter, of course, there are some fire festivals which take place in other seasons. Now, I am going to tell you about the fire festival held in other seasons but not in winter.

6. Tsugaru City Umaichi Festival in Aomori

Umaichi Festival is a summer festival held for 3 days at the end of August every year and it is the biggest festival in Tsugaru City, Aomori Prefecture. During the festival, there are many entertainments going on throughout all three days. The opening ceremony, karaoke competition, Yosakoi dancing, local traditional performance and arts, and many more. At night of the last day of the festival, there is a closing ceremony where you can watch fireworks -at Nitta Himatsuri(新田火祭り.

During the event, people at the festival put fire on horse floats to pray and send spirits of horses to the sky. You can enjoy seeing the fireworks event and say goodbye to summer. Besides this fireworks event, you can also enjoy drinking beer with delicious food at a beer garden. There are many local vendors offering great food as well. I’m sure you can enjoy them together under the summer night sky.

Details and Access to Umaichi Festival

This year, 2018, Umaichi Festival will be held on 24th, 25th, 26th of August. The festival starts in the morning and lasts till night. The main fire event will be on the night of 26th. However, there are many events throughout the day. So, you can enjoy the festival for the whole day.  The pace of the festival is near Tsugaru City Hall, in Tsugaru City, Aomori Prefecture. To get to the place will take you a 20-minute walk from JR Gono Line Kizukuri Station. You can also access the venue by car. There are parking lots in the area too.
For more information on Umaichi Festival, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/3466/

7. Nanmoku Ohinata no Hitoboshi in Gunma

Nanmoku Ohinata no Hitoboshi is a summer festival in Namoku Village, Gunma Prefecture. People also call it Ohinata no Hitoboshi (南牧大日向の火とぼし), which is the largest fire festival in Gunma. Ohinata no Hitoboshi festival is a two-day festival and it has a history for about 400 years.  At the festival, you can enjoy great rings of fire, like at Fire Waving Festival in Akita. Participants create them by burning the ends of 2~3-meter long ropes and people swing them around on Ohinata Bridge in the center of Nanmoku Village. The fire show usually goes along with a traditional flute and drum performance. You can see its fantastic combination! It is also nice to compare this festival with Fire Waving Festival in Akita if you have a chance!

Details and Access to Nanmoku Oninata no Hitoboshi

Ohinata no Hitoboshi Festival is held for two days on 14th and 15th August every year. The time is from 6 pm to 8 pm.  The festival takes place around Ohinata Bridge in Nanmoku Village, Gunma Prefecture. You can get there within 1 hour by a car from Takasaki Station on JR Line. On the other hand, you can get to Takasaki station in 15 minutes from Maebashi Station or 1 hour by Shinkansen from Tokyo Station.
For more information on Nanmoku Ohinata no Hitoboshi, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1033/

 

[Unique Fire Festivals in Japan]

In this part, I will introduce you to some unique fire festivals, unlike the previous festivals. Of course, those festivals also have their own special features, but I think the festivals I am going to talk about are more unique.

8. Fujiki Dososhin Festival in Yamanashi

Fujiki Dososhin Festival is a traditional festival in Yamanashi Prefecture. “Dososhin” means a Japanese god who keeps a village safe. This festival takes place to worship this god.  The unique point of this festival is that you can enjoy seeing “Kabuki”- a Japanese traditional dance and sing performance. Some Kabuki performers do Kabuki on big Japanese Drums – “Wa-daiko” as well. Basically, there are three drums to ride on and those drums gather at Hokoji(放光寺)- a temple in Fujiki. Then people carry them and start making a fireplace around there drums. At the fireplace, performers start Kabuki facing each other.  At this festival, you can enjoy Kabuki performance and a fire festival at the same time! If you are interested in Kabuki, you shouldn’t miss this festival!

Details and Access to Fujiki Dososhin Festival

Fujiki Dososhin Festival is held on 14th January every year. This year, 2018, it started from 7 pm.  The place for Fujiki Dososhin Festival is at Hokoji – a temple at Enzan Fujiki, in Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture. To get this temple, you should use trains and local buses. First, you should go to Enzan Station(塩山駅)on JR Chuo Line. And then you should take a local bus to Hokoji. It takes 10 minutes from the station. You can also take a taxi instead of a local bus. If you can drive a car, you can get there by car, too. However, there may be snow on the roads. Besides, it may be dangerous without experience of driving on a snowy road.
For more information on Fujiki Dososhin Festival, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4386/

9. Kouzaki Temple Himatsuri in Chiba

Kouzaki Fire Festival takes place at Kouzaki Temple in Chiba Prefecture. At this festival, you can see the performance of Japanese ascetic people. Besides, I think that among ritual events in Japan, ascetic’s ceremonies are curious. At Kouzaki Fire Festival, ascetics walk over fire purified by prayers, with bare feet to grant believers hope. Many people visit to see this rare and powerful ritual and pray for peace, health, safety, and good luck. There is a parade at this festival. During the parade, people play trumpet shells and drums, praying for traffic safety and peace of the town. You can also enjoy seeing them!

Details and  to Kouzaki Fire Festival

In this year, 2018, the date of Kouzaki Fire Festival was on 29th April. Its ceremony and parade started at 10:30 am. The fire offering event was from 1 pm. Kouzaki Fire Festival takes place at Kouzaki Temple in Kouzaki Town, Chiba Prefecture. Kouzaki Town is in the northeast of Chiba Prefecture, near Narita City so it is easy to go even from the airport. To get the venue, you should go to Shimousa-Kouzaki Station on JR-EAST Line and then walk.
For more information on Kouzaki Fire Festival, click here URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1477/

10. Gozan no Okuribi in Kyoto

Image courtesy of Takeshi Kuboki

 

The last fire festival I recommend you to visit is Gozan no Okuribi in Kyoto Prefecture. This festival is a very famous Japanese festival. It is held on 16th August every year. We Japanese regard the week around the middle of August, including 16th, as “Obon Week” – the week spirits return to life. So Gozan no Okuribi takes place to get these spirits back to heaven. At this festival, you can see five words and pictures drawn with fire on mountains from the distance. Besides this, Kyoto has an old Japanese atmosphere. There are many old tea houses and cafes, too. You can also enjoy them after Gozan no Okuribi.

Image courtesy of  keme

Details and Access to Gozan no Okuribi

Gozan no Okuribi is held on 16th August every year. It starts at 8 pm. At that time, the first fire word Dai(大) lights up. Then, the rest of the four words and pictures start glowing one by one. The interval for each ignition is 5 minutes. So in the end, all of them glow in 30 minutes.  The place of this fire festival is around Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. So after getting to Kyoto City, you can go around to see these fire words and pictures. To access Kyoto City, you can go to Kyoto Station on JR Line.

How to Enjoy Fire Festivals

First, you can enjoy them with snow. Besides, most fire festivals are held in winter, from December to February. So you can see these festivals performances surrounded by snow. Furthermore, you can also enjoy winter sports such as ski, snowboarding, skating and many more! Second, you can enjoy a local town near the festival venue. Especially during, Gozan No Okuribi which is near Kyoto. Third, you can enjoy having local delicious foods. Each area of the festival is likely to have its local food. You should try those local foods once you visit the venue.

Q&A

Q. Are Fire Festivals Dangerous?

A. Unless you don’t get to fires too close, they are safe. However, some of the fire festivals have a big fire. So you have to follow the staff’s guidings.

 

Q. What Kind of Clothes Should We Wear for Fire Festivals?

A. Some fire festivals are held in winter, so you need to prepare thick warm clothes like warm jackets, gloves, and so on. There are summer festivals as well. You have to check the season of the fire festivals. Furthermore, most fire festivals are more energetic and messy than other types of festivals, so it’s better to wear clothes can get dirty.

 

Q. Should I Pay Admission Fee to Join Fire Festivals?

A. Most fire festival you can join for free. However, if you take your children, you must keep an eye on them all the time.

Closing Remarks

This article summarized the best 10 fire festivals in Japan briefly for you. Japanese fire festivals are energetic, powerful and also solemn. If you could find your favorite festival from this article, I’m really going to be happy. So, it’s a good time to go to visit a fire festival in Japan!

If you would like to discover fire festivals with a friendly local guide, please check the banner below!

Do You Like Fireworks Festivals?

Hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you want to visit the Asia Port Fireworks Festival! However, there are a lot of fireworks festivals and events in summer, as fireworks festivals are one of the traditional events in Japan. Put on your Yukata and getas, meet your friends and enjoy a beautiful night sky lit up with thousands of colorful fireworks!
If you are planning to visit Japan to see fireworks, the following article picked the top 11 best fireworks (or Hanabi) festivals for you!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4269/

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Tokyo Stay!

Most of the travelers who come to Japan enter the country through Tokyo. Even if it is not the main place of your destination, it would be a great idea to stay in the capital city for a few days. The biggest conglomerate in the world has much to offer to any kind of traveler. Whether you want to go sightseeing, shopping, eating out, or trying something special that you can experience only in Japan, Tokyo has it all. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Tokyo! Please, have a look, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/7726/ 

Don’t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Did You Know That There is a Festival Every Day Somewhere in Japan?

Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/6572/

Sosuke Sato

Hi everyone! I’m Sosuke! I hope I can tell you guys the attractiveness of Japanese tradition and fantastic culture through my articles!

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