The Kurama Fire Festival in the mountainous village of Kurama honors Yuki Shrine and its spirits, and lights up the night on October 22 each year. Now one of Kyoto’s most popular fire festivals, it features a parade with hundreds of people bearing flaming torches, creating a truly majestic sight.
A family affair and rite of passage
Easily Kyoto’s most theatrical parade, this festival is both dynamic and hot. The procession begins at dusk, when small torches are lit in front of each house. Many homes display their family heirlooms in their windows such as samurai armor.
The parade is also considered a rite of passage for youth. Originally an event just for boys, girls now participate as well due to the shrinking population of the village. Children are first in the procession, holding small torches, followed by teenagers. The men of the village are the focus of the parade, carrying huge torches weighing as much as 80 kilograms.
All involved wear traditional costumes, which are minimal in nature, especially considering the weather and the circumstances: sandals, loincloths, braided rope skirts tied around the waist, and a padded cloth over one shoulder to cushion the torch.
A small number of village men carry mikoshi portable shrines up the road to the shrine. This is a show of great strength, as the mikoshi are incredibly heavy.
A huge bonfire
The parade ends at Yuki-jinja Shrine, where the torches are piled on top of each other to create an enormous bonfire. The festivities start at sunset and last until midnight.