The Kurama Fire Festival One of Kyoto's Three Eccentric Festivals
Not far from Shimogamo Shrine, in a town known as Kurama about 30 minutes by train from Demachiyanagi Station, a shinto ritual called the Kurama Fire Festival (Yuki-jinja Shrine Annual Festival) is held in October. As this festival is held at Yuki-jinja Shrine, it is recognized as one of Kyoto's Three Eccentric Festivals. On this day, bonfires are lit across the town of Kurama and people parade around with torches. The climax of the event is a parade of the mikoshi (portable shrine). The unique nature and impact of this festival has made it very popular among tourists.
The origin of the fire festival dates back to over 1000 years ago. With great earthquakes and conflicts frequent at the time, the emperor, concerned about growing public unrest, moved Yuki-jinja Shrine from Heian-Kyo (ancient Kyoto) to Kurama. The sight of those carrying the beacon fires and transferring the shrine deeply impressed the residents of Kurama, who have to this day continued the tradition of carrying the beacon fires and the mikoshi.
Another of Kyoto's Three Biggest Festivals, Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages), is held on the morning of the same day. Many tourists attend Jidai Matsuri first in the morning, followed by the Kurama Fire Festival（Yuki-jinja Shrine Annual Festival）later on; however, please be aware that both are famous festivals so expect them to be crowded.
Held only once every year, this sacred fire festival is sure to impress. We highly recommend you to visit there!
People who live around the shrine carry around torches of varying sizes. The torch fires will be lit from 6:00pm when the spoken signal, "shinji ni mairasshare (the festival has just begun) ," is given. Children carry small torches and adults large torches. They all walk around the town giving enthusiastic shouts in unison. Some of these torches can be very heavy, with largest of them weighing up to 100 kilograms. The flame emanating from this giant torch is absolutely spectacular!
Ceremony of Cutting the Sacred Rope
At 8:00pm, in preparation for the mikoshi to come down through the gate, a ceremony is held in which the sacred rope that runs across the gate is cut. This is the Ceremony of Cutting the Sacred Rope. Prior to this ritual, those who carry the larger torches assemble before the gate and raise their fires into the sky. These torches are incredibly heavy, so lifting them into the air is a Herculean task. Loud cheers of encouragement from the crowd guide the participants to success. After that time the sacred ropes are cut and the mikoshi begins its descent.
Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)
The mikoshi will be brought down around 9:00 in the evening. Visitors will be impressed by the sight of the mikoshi illuminated by torchlight. As the mikoshi is lowered down through the mountain gate, you may see two men in loincloths hanging from its carrying poles. This is called the "Choppen Ceremony" and is known as a right of passage into adulthood among men in Kurama. Festivals that include parading a mikoshi at night are rare, so we would be delighted if you took the time to see it.