Nov. 07, 2017 UPDATE
Hitaki-sai Fire Festival- 火焚祭 -
As the festival is magnificent to watch, foreign visitors can fully enjoy the festival without understanding Japanese.
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PeriodNovember 8th, every year
VenueFushimi Inari Shrine
Story & Recommendation
A fire ritual with rising magnificent bonfires at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Hitaki sai (fire festivals) is one of common sights in November in Kyoto. The festivals have originated in folk beliefs dating back to the Edo Period(1603-1868) and at the beginning of winter, fire festivals are held in shrines everywhere in Kyoto. In these festivals, bundles of prayer sticks with worshippers’ written wishes are set alight on a premise as a holy fire is believed to purge away people’s sins and to grant wishes. Among these festivals, Fushimi Inari Shrine’s Hitaki-sai Fire Festival is considered most overwhelming in the country. Surprisingly, about 100,000 prayer sticks are sent from worshippers in every region of Japan wishing for their good health and prosperity. The highlight is the ritual of throwing prayer sticks into holy bonfires with flame and smoke shooting up to the air. A huge blaze is absolutely stunning and worthwhile watching! A great number of spectators from all over Japan visit Fushimi Inari Shrine to attend this dynamic Hitaki sai on the festival day.
The purification ceremony before the fire festival
After the ceremony is held in the shrine's main hall, priests and priestesses gather at a clearing where three heaps have been laid out. Next, the priests perform the purification ceremony, set prayer sticks in the three bonfires and simultaneously light them. When Oharae no kotoba (Shinto purification prayers) are being addressed by all the priests and participants, the ritual venue become cloaked in an awesome atmosphere.
The ritual of tossing prayer sticks on to the fire
When the smoke clears and fires begin to rise up from the bonfires, the priests begin tossing, throwing and scattering prayer sticks onto the fires dynamically. The priests also undertake cleansing rituals in front of each fire, using sakaki leaves, salt and water. It takes more than one hour to burning out all the prayer sticks with people’s wishes.
See the beautiful performance of Kagura dancing
As the burning of the prayer sticks approaches to an end, priestesses perform a traditional Kagura dance intermittently. The sacred beauty of the dance by the priestesses carrying golden bells adds a different color to this dynamic festival. They continue to dance until the last prayer stick is thrown into the fire.