Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kurama Fire Festival

One of Kyoto's most dramatic festivals - the Kurama Fire Festival is held annually on the night of October 22nd.
This festival dates back some 1000 years ago when the god of the Yuki shrine was invited to visit (enshrinement of the god as a protector deity) from the Imperial Palace where the deity was said to reside. To light the way and welcome the god, flaming torches were placed along the road leading to the shrine. To commomerate this event, this festival is now held annually.
To get there one has to take the Eizan line train from Demachiyanagi Station to Kurama Station and the trip takes about half an hour. But by the time when I arrived at the Demachiyanagi Station (around 5.00 pm) the train were already packed and extremely long queue lines stretched out of the station (approximately 2 - 3 hours waiting time I was told by two japanese girls that I met at the station - Iwata-san and Kasai-san). When I was about to give up my plan to see the festival, Ono-san (another stranger) approached us and suggested that all four of us might as well share the fare and take a cab (single journey, 3000 yen) to Kibune-guchi Station. From there, it will be another 15 minutes walk to the temple area. What perfect strangers ! And we becoming friends !
As early as 6.00 pm , bonfires were set alight in front of houses along the street.
School children were seen carrying little fire torches in their hands.
On the other hand, men wearing loincloths shouldered huge flaming torches.
During the torch procession, men were drinking beer and sake and were shouting in celebration. Torches lit up the night sky as cries of 'Sairei ! Sairyo !' filled the air.
It was really cold last night. Ono-san bought us amazake (sweet, nonalcoholic japanese drink made from fermented rice). I had tempura udon for my dinner.
At about 8.00 pm, torches were gathered together one after another heading for the main gate of the Kurama Temple.
At its half-way point, the procession made a brief stop (the place where we were anxiously waiting for some great fire show).
Giant blazing torches were held furiously high up in the air.
Sparks showered over participants and spectators - being hit by these sparks is said to be very auspicious.
The spectators were excited and almost went berserk ! The vigorous fire performance was so superbly entertaining and spectacular.
Very heavy duty - the torch is approximately four metres in length and 100 kg in weight.
After a brief stop for about 10 minutes, torch carriers continued their journey to the Yuki Shrine.
As the procession reaches the precincts of the Yuki Shrine, the festival eventually reaches its most dramatic point (between 9.00 - 10.00 pm). But the main gate of Kurama Temple leading to the shrine (best viewing spot) was unbelievably crowded and impossible for us to get there, unless one goes there really really early.
No doubt the festival is legendary. It was an incredible fire display ! And lucky me ... need not to queue for the train. We had our cab waiting for us.


Acrix said...

Kurama fire festival gona be special this year coz u made some new frens becoz of it :P The giant fire torch bit like those malay bamboo fire torch that they place outside their home except this one is more gigantic~ Selamat Berpuasa for now :)

ODD said...

Fantastic, and it's cool you made some new friends.

zbjernak said...

i love to meet new foreign friends...especially under those circumstances... remind me of the jap friends i made while in borneo.

jap really have LOTS of festival...
damn a if every month they have celebration

Eddie said...

how much was the taxi..
i guess it must be very expensive.
Some foreigners complained that the festival was lousy and badly organised. "we get to see some bad asses" complained a foreigners.
"It was not as good as it sounds" a couple from UK complained to us

Anonymous said...

seemed that you had a great time overthere. did harry go along with you to Kurama?

Anonymous said...

I skipped it again this year. Didn't fancy rubbing shoulders with so many ppl and being frozen. Dahlah Jidai Matsuri no toki, I was shivering like hell! Thank god it didn't rain!
Ai Ling

Sidney said...

You captured this festival nicely.
Must have been something quite un-usual! Thanks for sharing !

Patrick Leong said...

acrix : hi hi. it has been awhile that you're away. i only knew that you are from brunei from fish over the weekends. everything settled now ? back to KL ? raya coming in another week or two right ?

odd : yup. ono-san is really kind. he paid a bigger portion for the cab fare (because we were students). he bought us amazake. at one point because of the huge crowd i actually lost them. but 1/2 hour later, we bumped into each other again and he was actually searching for me.

zbjernak : the crowd was huge. and the main problem - kurama is a very small village and the parade marching up and down very narrow streets. we were moving around the area looking for good location. in the beginning, i was a little disappointed with the festival (so much talk about it but so little to see). but at around 8.00 pm, the fire display was just (phew) superb. and true .. you can see festivals in japan every month (every week too maybe).

eddie : because ono-san paid a higher amount, i only paid 1000 yen for two-way from demachiyanagi. well i think it all depends on where one is - the viewing spot. we were lucky to see some fire performance before we left kurama. for me, it is worth the trip. and after all, taking cab isn't bad idea at all, i arrived home at about 9.30 pm.

eaow : no. i went to jidai festival with harry. at first i thought of going alone because i received a free seat ticket from a friend. but since he wanted to go, we went together. he has baito in the evening, therefore i went alone. but ended up going to the festival with three other strangers.

ailing : yes. very cold that night. i didn't wear enough. and indeed it was difficult to take pictures with people pushing and wanting to be at the front for better view. i find jidai festival really colorful. i quite like it (was my first time seeing it). but like you said, the weather was gloomy that day. and the horses seemed a little restless.

sidney : thanks. i am glad i have these pictures. i probably won't go again because of the huge crowd.

fish fish said...

Zbjernak : They have festival every day.

mmulibra said...

I think the photos show that it's worth going to the festival.

Photos are well taken.. nice!

Acrix said...

Back in KL now and will be blogging slowly after getting all the stuff settled this week :P Happy Birthday to ya thou still got 22 hrs to go just in case i can;t make it to wish ya~ Hari raya gona be determined by 4th of nov if i;m not mistaken :)

Ed said...

Wow Patrick. This festival looks amazing. Great job getting these night shots.

Lrong said...

I like festivals... nice rendition you have there... Happy Birthday to you...

Sweepy said...

Ah, sugoi. First off, Happy Birthday Patrick. The display of torches looked mesmerizing...And good job on the photos, very well done!

Patrick Leong said...

thank you for nice comments. thanks for all birthday greetings.