Fire symbolizes light, warmth, and purification. In the mountains of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, fires are lit, dances are performed, and prayers are offered. Check out these two fire festivals in the area this December 2017!
The Kanzanji Temple holds a fire festival annually on December 15. During the festival, prayers for fire prevention, good health, and good harvest are offered. There is also a ceremony where people walk barefoot on the fire and completing this ceremony will give protection against illness.
About the Temple
The Kanzanji Temple is said to have been founded by Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi or Kukai in 810. Commemorate your visit to the temple by getting the special stamp, “the key to your heart.” Located on Mt. Tateyama, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Lake Hamana from the temple grounds. Visiting the Ana Daishi Cave or “Master in the Cave” is said to alleviate eye ailments. Those who seek blessings for their relationships head to the Enmusubi Jizou; while the Kanzanji Seishi Kannon Bosatsu, a 16-meter statue of the goddess of compassion, is said to protect the people in the area.
How to Get There
The Kanzanji Temple is accessible by bus from Hamamatsu Station. Just take the Kanzanji Onsen, Murakushi line bus, and after the 40-minute bus ride, alight at Kanzanji Onsen. The temple is a 10-minute walk from this bus stop.
— あかしば (@akashiba1) December 16, 2016
The Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine hosts its fire festival on December 15 and 16. The highlight of the two-day annual festival is the Hibus no Matsuri or the ceremony of fire prevention held at midnight of December 16. Three important dances are performed as part of the ceremony: the bow dance or “yumi no mai,” the sword dance or “tsurugi no mai,” and the fire dance or “hi no mai.”
During the bow dance, the priest uses a bow to shoot five consecutive arrows to the east, west, north, south, and towards the center of the ceiling. This dance is offered to pray for a bountiful harvest.
Another priest performs the sword dance using two swords to purge sin and impurities. This dance is also meant to appease the earth and suppress evil.
The last dance is the fire dance where a priest bears a torch with a sacred flame that has been burning for thousands of years in the inner shrine. The fire dance is performed in prayers of preventing fires, protection from floods, and protection from illnesses.
About the Temple
The Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine enshrines the god of fire, Hinokagutsuchi (火之迦具土大神). Established in 709, it is considered as the head of all Akiha Shrines in Japan. Its upper shrine can be found near the summit of Mt. Akiha, while its lower shrine is at the southeastern base of the mountain. The path from the lower shrine to the upper shrine is a popular hiking course and takes around an hour and a half to two hours.
A golden torii gate stands in front of the main shrine at the mountain summit. Symbolizing happiness, it was reconstructed based on the original torii on the same site. From the upper shrine, you can also have an overlooking view of the city.
When visiting the Akiha Shrine, take the chance to do the “tengu plate throw.” This ritual involves writing your wish on an unglazed clay plate and throwing it at a target.
How to Get There
The Akiha Shrine is also reachable by bus. From the Nishi-Kajima Station on the Entetsu Railway Line, take the Entetsu Bus bound for Haruno-cho. After the 40-minute bus ride, get off at Akiha Jinja to get to the lower shrine. Another Entetsu Bus bound for Akiha-jinja Kamisha goes straight to the upper shrine.
Take a hike in the mountains of Hamamatsu as you seek the Kanzanji Temple and the Akiha Shrine. Commune with nature and the gods at these two fire festivals!