The Mysterious Kebesu Festival: Heal Your Ills with Fire…



Visit Japan at any time of year and you will surely encounter matsuri – festivals. There are thousands of matsuri – many with sacred or historical origins, and others with more recent, often commercial foundations. The unique Kebesu Festival is one of the former type.

History of the Festival

Nobody knows how the Kebesu Festival originated or even when it started. However, it is now the most recognized festival in the Kunisaki Peninsula. Taking place once a year on the 14th October, the Kebesu Festival is essentially a re-enactment of an ancient story, in which two sides – the touba and the kebesu, battle one another.

Characters and Props Used

Touba: originally believed to be gods of protection. It is the name touba is given to the neighborhood in charge of running the festival for that year. The touba changes every year to another area.
Kebesu: the god of harvest.
Shida: fern branches that are set alight

Nengaku-no-retsu: a chorus of people in the background playing traditional musical instruments

What Happens?

2:00pm on the festival day, the assigned touba depart to the Kushiku Shrine where the festival will take place.
6 :00pm, the chosen kebesu immerses himself in the sea to spiritually purify his body.
7 :00pm, the newly purified kebesu arrives at the Kushiku Shrine.
The priest masks the kebesu’s face and, using his fingers, traces the character for ‘win’ on the kebesu’s back. The priest then hits the kebesu’s back with the palm of his hand, at which point the god kebesu supposedly enters and possesses the body of the chosen human representative.

The kebesu then moves towards the fire accompanied by the nengaku-no-retsu, and tries to get into the fire. The touba stop him, pushing him back towards the nengaku-no-retsu. The actors repeat this a total of nine times before the kebesu pretends to finally enter the fire.
At this point, the touba set fire to their shida branches, before running around in a sacred frenzy. The performance ends with the touba hitting the branches on the ground and reciting the fortune for the next year’s harvest.

Interesting Facts About the Festival

People believe that if any of the sparks from the fire come into contact with your body, you will heal any ills and remain healthy!

Information and Advice for Spectators

You can watch the performance from the moment of the kebesu’s entrance to the shrine at 7pm. I highly recommend you wear a hat or other protective clothing – and take extra care to avoid flammable clothing or fabrics!

Tourist Information About the Kunisaki Region

With over a thousand years of Buddhist history, the Kunisaki region is first and foremost famous for its beautiful temples. Tucked away amidst lush, natural surroundings, the Futagoji and Rurikoji temples are perhaps the area’s most well-known and are well worth a visit.
For food and gift shopping, I suggest a stop at the ‘Michi-no-Eki Kunisaki’ rest area, by the station. The complex has restaurants, a picnic area, lovely local souvenirs to buy, and if you’re an outdoorsy type, you can even rent bicycles to get the most out of the area’s stunning surroundings. For lovers of Japanese food, the locally caught tachiuo (hairtail fish) at the Gintachi-no-Sato seafood restaurant is simply a must-try!

Details and Access

Date & Time

14th October 2018 (Sunday), from 7pm.


Kushiku Shrine:〒872-1406, 1562 Kunimimachi Kushiku, Kunisaki-shi, Ōita-ken 872-1406

Directions & maps available from the Kunisaki Tourism Office:

TEL: +81 0978-72-5168,

Concluding Remarks

It’s often the lesser-known places we visit that we remember the most, and I certainly think this is true of the Kunisaki area. With fairy-tale natural beauty, great food, and one of the most mysterious matsuri in all the country, what more could you possibly want from a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun?

Discover Oita Prefecture With its Fascinating Festivals and Hot Springs!

Would you like to avoid typical routes when you are in Japan next time? Then Oita prefecture is a perfect destination to see rural Japan, enjoy delicious local food, soak in numerous hot springs and experience the hospitality of local people at unforgettable festivals! The following article will guide you to the best activities you must try when you are in Oita Prefecture!


 Experience More Fire Festivals in Japan

Do you like that mystical scenes and atmosphere that fire creates in the darkness? I always loved watching the fire as it has a hypnotic effect on me. Even though there are not so many fire festivals in Japan, some of them are still taking place serving many religious purposes or victory celebrations. If you are looking forward to having some cultural experience in the dark with fire in Japan, the following article will introduce you 10 Best Fire Festivals in Japan. Please click on the link below!


Do You Like Fireworks Festivals?

Hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you want to visit this 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!


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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you want to visit this great festival. Lantern festivals in Japan are very popular, and you can see it in any season. If you would like to know more about other lantern festivals in Japan, enjoy its mystical atmosphere, and admire a glowing night in Japan, please click on the link below and you will find an article on the best 13 lantern festivals in Japan!


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!



Despite having lived here for four years as an English teacher, Japan never ceases to both surprise and delight me.

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