It turns out that wishing for the cold to subside and a fruitful spring to unfold is a more common sentiment than one might think. At Kamikura Shrine in Shingu city, Wakayama Prefecture, this idea is taken to a whole new fiery level.
Every year on February 6, the Oto Festival takes place to wish for a good harvest and good health. Simply speaking, it’s one of the most lively and famous fire festivals in Japan.
Men all ages – dressed in white with a thick rope tied around their waist – congregate at the shrine carrying a wooden torch.
As the excitement rises, the torches are lit on fire. At 8 P.M. the scene that unfolds is of roughly 2000 brightly lit torches carried by men racing down the 500 steps leading to Kamikura Shrine, making for a blur of warm yellow light illuminating all the surroundings.
Because of the powerful imagery of the fire moving down the steep hill, a traditional folk song describes the scene as a flaming waterfall cascading from the mountain in the shape a winding fiery dragon.
This awe-inspiring celebration has a 1400 history and is recognized as Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
(Click here to read the related article in Japanese)