Mount Takao Firewalk. Hiwatari matsuri. Saito Goma-ku. Part One. IGNITION.

Our three weeks in Japan included the day on which the annual Mount Takao Firewalk takes Place. Yamabushi monks, practitioner of Shugendo, are the people who perform this ritual.  I am told that the event is to pray for world peace, longevity and good health. I understand little of this, you realize. But what I saw and heard remains strongly in my memory. And will be there, strongly, for a long time.

Since my knowledge is shallow, you’ll have to rely on what you see in the images in this and the next few posts.

We stopped for a ramen meal on the way to Mount Takao.


A busy place. Place your hand on the door and someone is there to greet and seat you. From all the staff, there is a chorus of welcome! and farewell! as people come and go.


When we reached out destination we parked at the train station lot, and followed the powerful sound of the monks’ chanting. Thousands of people streamed uphill. Thousands were already there.


We shoehorned our way into one side of the site, our view partially blocked by a building. We shuttled back and forth from one side of that building to another to see as best we could.


Three people. Three folded paper streamers. One plum blossom.

The fire is underway.




Heated air refracts the view of the Yamabushi.


Conch horns are blown.


The air is scented with the smoke of cedar.

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Into the fire go thousands of these sticks.



To be continued…

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