Mt.Takao Firewalking Festival(高尾山火渡り祭) was held at the foot of Mt.Takao on the 9th of March in 2014. This is one of major events for Yamabushi(山伏)/Mountain Ascetic Hermits who train themselves at Mt.Takao throughout the year. Yamabushi pray for world peace, longevity, dispelling bad lucks, road safety, family safety and wellness with purifying themselves through firewalking.
I reached the nearest station, Takaosanguchi Station(高尾山口駅) just before noon. People stood in a line at every restaurant. So, I made up my mind to skip lunch. I found some Yamabushi at Fudōin, branch temple of Mt.Takao Yakuōin(高尾山薬王院別院不動院). I wondered whether I should watch them marching in procession to the firewalking venue.
Although I go to Mt.Takao at least once a year since my childhood, It’s my first time to see this festival. So, I headed to the firewalking venue, Car Kitōden, branch temple of Mt.Takao Yakuōin(高尾山自動車祈祷殿). I found Tengu(天狗) statues there. Tengu is a deity of mountain. Its figure is a combination of human and a bird. Tengu has wings. Usually, Tengu has a long nose. But, Tengu at Mt.Takao has a beak like a hornbill or a parrot, instead. Mt.Takao is one of 3 major mountains where Tengu resides in. The firewalking venue was full of people. I was about to give up taking a good seat. LuckiIy, I found empty behind paid seats. However, I should say unfortunate. I had to wait for this event for 45 minutes and keep standing there for almost 3 hours until this event was over.
Several general people at paid seats dressed in white with charms against bad luck. The left charm « 緒災難除 » means dispelling bad luck. The right charm « 家内安全 » means family safety. I cannot see clearly the middle charm.
This firewalking festival was held in front of Tengu. Grass and woods are piled up.
The festival began around 1:05PM. Dozens of Yamabushi walked around piled up grass. I’m not sure. Probably, Yamabushi in violet and orange is higher in rank than Yamabushi in white. Some Yamabushi are ladies with skinhead. Even though it’s a religious reason, it must have been a tough decision for them.
All Yamabushi recited scriptures. One Yamabushi trotted and shouted « Rokkon Shōjō(六根清浄) » which means « purifying six senses: a sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and the sixth sense, to terminate evil spirits and to head on a right way. »
One Yamabushi holding a sword recited scriptures. I’m not sure what he was talking about. Probably, he cut his evil spirits with his sword.
One Yamabushi shot an arrow to the outside at every corner and at last to the center.
After then, one Yamabushi ignited grass. In my view, it’s better to ignite grass by a flaming arrow than a torch.Wind made flame grow. Visitors on the right side were warned and forced to evacuate.
While flame was blazing, some female Yamabushi threw good luck charms which some visitors scrambled into a paid area to catch. Especially, children chanted joyfully « Mom, I got this one! ».
After all grass has gone, while fire was still smoldering, one Yamabushi scooped and poured boiling water onto himself by twigs with lush leaves to purify himself.
Around 3:00PM, finally, climax came. At first, high rank Yamabushi walked through fire. Next, the rest of Yamabushi followed. At last, general people’s turn came. If you want to take part in firewalking, you need to get a ticket which costs 300 yen and stand in a long line where you cannot probably see this festival well. If you have time, I strongly recommend that you watch this festival at first, then be in a line.
Official Site(Japanese): http://www.takaosan.or.jp/hiwatari/
The 2nd Sunday on every March
1:00PM – 3:00PM
Mt.Takao Car Kitōden(高尾山自動車祈祷殿)
2390 Takaomachi, Hachiōji, Tokyo
Click Here: Mt.Takao Firewalking Festival Venue on Google Map.