Isn't this awesome? The Yoshida fire festival is held on August 26th each year and runs up the main street in front of our EDO period house. Over 500 fires are lit, running from Fuji station, up the main street, to the shrine, and then winding their way to the very top of Mt Fuji.
Here is the official flyer for this years event.
I awoke on the morning of the 26th in the old house at about 5.30am and took this shot to start my day. About an hour later an emergency broadcast came over the public P.A. system that a bear had been spotted wandering around the neighborhood and that we should report it if we saw it. Yikes! I had wondered what that scratching at the door was! (Most likely a field mouse but you never know).
My mother-in-law got up and started hanging up the washing to dry...
...and then we all pitched in to make breakfast. It was going to be a great day.
At 7.00pm the community cannon sounded (actually 3 loud rockets packed with gun powder to make a loud bang). This officially marks the beginning of events to close the Mt Fuji climbing season for the winter. The event is also to pray that the Fuji Spirit remains stable and therefore she does not erupt any time in the foreseeable future.
After breakfast the next door neighbor popped around with some fresh corn for us that he had just picked from his field. There had been many rumors going around that the old house had been on the market, but everyone was pleased that my wife and I had now taken it over and that it was still in the family. Everyone was warmly watching out for us.
Out the front, the firewood tower that was to stand in the street had already been delivered. This one was sponsored by a local hotel. It had rained the night before so fortunately they had covered it in plastic. In this picture you can see the thick bottom end forming a strong base from which to stand it upright on. (They stand it in the middle of the road on a mound of dirt to stop the road from getting damaged). The tower is bound with rope and sheets of thin flat wood around the outside to keep it all together. The top is made thinner and then it widens towards the bottom. When the fire is lit at the top it burns slowly and evenly towards the base, making for a very controlled event.
The road was closed to traffic at 2.00pm after all the market stall owners had dropped off their gear in the appropriate places. We placed a notice out the front asking them to keep the front of our house clear so that we could watch the event from the living room.
At about 4.00pm the store holders started setting up. This year the store to the side of our house was selling Takoyaki (Octopus). You can see it in this picture. In the middle of the road is the contained dirt waiting for its tower to be erected. Also at this time the local residents come out to build their own fires in the street. All the wood is provided at a cost by the council.
As this day is all about appeasing the spirits, at 5.00pm we all went for a walk to our local cemetery to put incense and pray for our deceased relatives. On the way we stopped at this rice field which seemed to be growing well, a sign that the gods must be pleased.
Then we walked a little further to the local shrine to further pay our respects.
Here I took this shot of the special grass towers, specifically designed to generate a lot of smoke when lit!
We gave our respects, drank a customary cup of sake and headed back to the house. By this time the roads were getting packed with tourists and locals, and just outside the shrine the standard Mikoshi and the Mt Fuji Mikoshi were on their merry way down the main street, accompanied by loud chanting and cheering of the pole bearers and crowd.
Among the crowd, dressed in white were the event volunteers, glad to be back together again for this years event.
At 6.30pm the official prayers were made then...
The first two towers were officially lit.
The food stalls started doing a roaring trade....
The main event got underway...
With loads of people walking passed our house...
The taiko drumming was in the car park next door.
By 10.00pm the towers eventually burn to the ground....
And by 11.00pm the front end loader and volunteers are cleaning up for the night...
The road is then open and ready by morning, cant wait for next year!