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.
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.
When I went there, it was already in the evening.
It was already dark but Wikipedia shows the photo during the day time on the day of the Fire Festival.
On the day of Fire Festival, the shrine offers Sake to the worshippers. It was free of charge (maybe only for this occasion).
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.
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.
Another portable shrine has a shape of Mt. Fuji. I have never seen such a float. This is very unique.
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.
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)