Fire Festival of Mt. Fuji – Exploring the “Oddest Festival”

There are many summer festivals in Japan but the Fire Festival held in Fuji Yoshida City at the foot of Mt. Fuji must be one of the most unique festivals of all.  Every year on 26 August, torchlights extend from the shrine town towards the middle of Mt. Fuji.  Japanese people created the category of “Three Major Odd Festivals in Japan” and the Fire Festival is included among them.The Fire Festival is a part of the Shinto Rituals of Sengen Jinja Shrine at the base of Mt. Fuji.  The festival already started in 1572.  It is a kind of the ceremony to “close” Mt. Fuji.  The mountain climbing trail opens on 1st July and is closed on 10 Sept.  The Fire Festival tells the end of the season for the climbing.

Torches burning Yoshida Fire Festival A.JPG
By Sakaori (talk) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

You may find hundreds of Sengen Jinja throughout Japan but this shrine is the “headquarters” shrine of all Sengen Jinja.  The official name of the shrine is “Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha” and Wikipedia says the shrine must be constructed some time between the year 781 and 806.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine (a photo from the website of Sengen Shrine)

When I went there, it was already in the evening.

the gate of Sengen Shrine
Inner Shrine of Sengen Shrine

It was already dark but Wikipedia shows the photo during the day time on the day of the Fire Festival.

Northern Fuji Sengen Shrine at the base of Mt. Fuji 26-Aug-2012.JPG
By Sakaori (talk) – , CC 表示-継承 3.0, Link

On the day of Fire Festival, the shrine offers Sake to the worshippers.  It was free of charge (maybe only for this occasion).

Sake offered by Sengen Shrine

On this day of the Fire Festival, the torches are placed in the middle of the main street of the Shrine Town.

These torches were specially made for the Fire Festival in early summer.

Yoshida Fire Festival large torches placed on the sidewalk A.JPG
By Sakaori (talk) – , CC , Link

They hold solemn rituals in the middle of afternoon in the Shrine.  And after that, the portable shrines or Omikoshi depart from the Shrine.  They have two kinds of Omikoshi shrines.  One is the normal portable shrine which you often see in Japanese festivals.

Portable shrine of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine

Another portable shrine has a shape of Mt. Fuji.  I have never seen such a float.  This is very unique.

Mt. Fuji-shaped portable shrine

Both of the portable shrines travel through the street of the shrine town.  They reach to the main square in the middle of the street at around 6:30 pm.  By that time, it becomes dark and they start to light a fire on the torches.

Between 6:30 – 7:00 pm, the torches along the street were set off.  The torches line up along the street and up to the middle of Mt. Fuji.

In the first torch ignition Otabisho, Yoshida Fire Festival B.JPG
By Sakaori (talk) –  CC , Link

 

The portable shrines go back to the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha the next day on 27 August.  Autumn is coming soon.

More Information on Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine

Address: 1-1 Miya-cho, Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka

Opening Hrs.: 5am – 8pm (6am – 7pm during November and February)

URL: http://fuji-hongu.or.jp/sengen/english/index.html

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Love walking. Love cycling. Love travelling. Let's see the world!

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