Japan Shinto shrine fire festival goers feel the burn on nighttime torch run

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SHINGU, Wakayama — The stone-paved mountain path to Kamikura Shrine here was transformed into a river of fire on the chilly night of Feb. 6 as hordes of people carrying torches streamed down the mountainside whooping and yelling, as part of the shrine’s “Oto Matsuri” fire festival.

The shrine on western Japan’s Mount Kamikura is a branch of the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in the city, and the festival, which is believed to have begun more than 1,400 years ago, is a designated national important intangible folk cultural treasure.

On the day, people wearing traditional white costumes gathered around the “Gotobiki” giant rock, an object of worship on Mount Kamikura. A gate opened shortly before 8 p.m. and participants holding blazing torches rushed down the 538 stone steps of the mountain path, shouting all the way.

(Japanese original by Satoshi Mogami, Wakayama Bureau)


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