Yesterday was the Fukugonji Akiba Grand Festival, a fire festival held at Fukugonji Temple, a 10-15 minute bus journey from Kasugai Station, north of Nagoya.
The Fukugonji Akiba Grand Festival begins with an afternoon of taiko drum performances by adult and children's groups alike and culminates in the fire festival which gets underway around 6pm after dark, this year preceded by a short, but rousing performance by the world famous Kodo drummers.
Participants walk through a fire of pine branches (with their shoes on) in a Buddhist ritual to cleanse the previous year's sins, especially covetousness, anger, and ignorance. Local people connected with the temple dressed in white garb lead the way, followed by the general public.
The actual fire experienced during the walk symbolizes the metaphysical fires that can burn within us and a reminder to us to control these inner flames that can lead us down the path to misery.
The virtue of patience is also required to stand in a crowded queue for around 90 minutes in the pitch dark. It might be better not to join the queue which begins to form at around 4.30pm unless you want to get to the very front to take photographs or video. You can still walk the flames but wait at the edges of the temple compound if you feel claustrophobic.
Full details of the festival in both Japanese and English can be found on the Fukugonji Temple's website describing the festival: akiba-taisai.fukugonji.com
According to the above site, the temple was founded in the 15th century by Seizen, a follower of the monk Akibasanjakubo, a spiritual adept who had gained mystical powers at Enryakuji Temple on Mt Hiei in Kyoto.
The festival takes place on the second Sunday of December each year in commemoration of the death of Akibasanjakubo.
Google map of Fukugonji
To get to Fukugonji, take a Tajimi-bound JR train from Nagoya Station, Tsurumai Station, Chikusa or Ozone and get off at Kasugai. Then catch an Aoi bus to the temple. Ask the driver to let you off at the nearest stop. The last Aoi bus back from the temple leaves at 7pm, though there are later Meitetsu buses from a stop a considerably longer walk from the temple.
Firewalking: 300 yen
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