Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kurama Fire Festival

Kurama is a village located on a mountain valley North of Kyoto, and can be reached by train in about 30 minutes. However, owing to its location, Kurama is about 5 degrees colder than Kyoto city at night.

The train to Kurama, with seats facing the windows for viewing autumn leaves

The station

Kurama is famous for the fire festival, held annually on the 22nd October. These photos were taken in 2002 and 2003.

The fire festival starts at about 6:00pm and goes on until about 11:00pm (however, it is best to go early and find a good place to see the processsion from, and to return to the station by 10:30 pm to avoid long queues). During the festival, torches are lit and carried around the village in procession, to guide the gods who are believed to tour the region during this time. The roads, too, are illuminated with fires.

Even if it involves fire, Japanese children play their part as usual for festivals.

The elders wear half-shirts and loin clothes. The large torches can be as tall as 4 meters, and seem quite heavy.

Other things carried around during the festival include protable shrines and ornaments from the nearby shrines.

During the festival, the residents of Kurama display their antique possessions in front of their houses.

The festival ends at the entrance to Yuki Jinja Shrine, where most of the torches are mounted and left to burn. However, there are a few other places for mounting torches.

Some random photos.

I recommend the festival as a must see, if you happen to be around Kyoto on this date (well, so does Lonely Planet Japan :-p).

If visited on a different day, Kurama still offers a lot more to enjoy. Nice landscape, hiking trails, shrines and temples, and onsens (natural hot springs).

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