Have you ever witnessed a fire festival in Japan? There are primarily three beautiful fire festivals in the country which the locals are very proud of. One of which is called “Nachi-no-Hi Matsuri” or Nachi Fire Festival. It is a sacred ritual done in Wakayama Prefecture on the 14th of July. The main objective is to purify or give life to the portable shrines being carried in a ritual procession.
Nachi-no-Hi matsuri involves 12 portable shrines (Ogi mikoshi) which are 6 meters tall. These are decorated with ogi fans and mirrors imitating the design of the Nachi Waterfall or the Great Waterfall of Nachi, one of the best-known waterfalls in Japan. Twelve huge, blazing torches are carried up and down, waved in circles close to the portable shrines. These torches are made of pine trees and weigh about 50 kg. Each of these represents a deity in Kumano as well as the months of the year. People believe that the way of carrying the torches purifies the shrines. The event is held at Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine.
Nachi-no-Hi Matsuri is done in the afternoon. Early in the morning, some Shinto rituals are done such as offerings. After that, the torches are lit at the base of Nachi Falls. People then carry the shrines on their shoulders while giving out loud cries as they run up the shrine’s steps. It is also around this time that the torches are carried up and down. This represents the journey of the Kumano gods. Stopping over the Nachi Falls is very significant as it symbolizes the gods’ revival before going back to their original place.
Many people come to watch this event. If you do get the chance to see it, expect the area to be crowded. If you arrive early enough to Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, you should get a better view!