This blog is for family and friends, to share my feelings and photos with and for myself, to support my fading memory and improve my Japanese. I intend to do some writing in kanji, but am not getting very far without a Japanese computer. So for the moment I say "konnichi wa". Aisatsu dake - just saying hello.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Atago Fire Walking

This spectacular shinto ceremony is held every year on the 5th of December at the Atago Shrine - right in our neighborhood. Fire is used to purify the place and people from bad influences before the start of the new year. Part of the shrine's front yard gets cordoned off with rope to create a space where gods can enter. Colored strips of paper indicate north, south, west and east. An extra color (yellow) is used marking this sacred void. I decided to walk up the hill and get a good look. Preparations were under way.

Personal wishes were written on strips of wood (gomaki) to be burned.

The great pile of wood and spruce set up in the center

Rituals with a sword, an ax, and a bow and arrow were performed; the gods of fire were asked to enter...

...and the fire was lit.  

Priests started chanting and praying, while smoke bellowed up from the pile

When the flames rose, the gomaki were burned

It became hotter by the minute, but chanting was kept up relentlessly to warden off bad spirits

Towards the end the heat was nearly unbearable. Some priests started shaking and behaving a bit odd - as in a trance

Then the moment came that the wood had burned down. The bad demons had left and the place was clean. The rope was removed and common people could enter.

The first priest to walk on the hot coals was blessed

Wielding a sword he crossed the path 

A line of locals had formed, waiting to be cleansed as well.

I haven't tried the hot coals myself, but vowed to do so next time.
Maybe it prevents me from getting another bad cold!

Memory of 2013.

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