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Each year, the annual Fire Festival of Nachi is held as a celebration of the Japanese people and their long cultural heritage. Described as one of Japan’s most spiritual festivals, the Fire Festival of Nachi includes the symbolic burning away of the past year’s mistakes and invites a fresh start and new optimism for participants. The following highlights the beauty of this event and why it is such an attraction to locals and visitors alike.
Beautiful Natural Setting
The Fire Festival of Nachi is held in Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine, Wakayama, a location that is easy to reach from many of the more populated regions of Japan. It is just a three hour train ride from Osaka and a roughly two and half hour drive from Tokyo, which makes it a reasonable day trip for tourists in the larger metropolitan areas. Part of a pilgrimage journey, this location is nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Kii Mountains and is graced by tall trees and a beautiful waterfall nearby. Dotting the route to Nachi-Taisha Shrine are several smaller shrines that were dedicated to the religious groups and sects of Buddhism’s past and continue to honor its present. While the pageantry of the ceremony is remarkable, the natural setting is, arguably, worth a visit in its own right.
The Fire Festival of Nachi, also known as the Nachi-no-Hi Matsuri Fire Festival, is among the three most popular of fire celebrations in the country. During this ceremony, men carrying blazing torches walk the pathway between shrines. The men are dressed in white ceremonial garb and wear white head bands across their brows. The torches, which stand several meters high, burn brightly, lighting the night and reflecting impressively against the men’s outfits. The goal of these impressively large fire torches, aside from the obvious reaction they receive, is to symbolize the purification of the twelve temples that they represent. Taken to the waterfall, these mobile shrines are ceremonially through the process of parading and create a clear pathway for the god of the Nachi Shrine to return home. It is, in essence, a ceremonial process that prepares the way for the god to whom the shrine is dedicated to find his rightful place each year.
Hundreds upon hundreds gather each year and line the streets to watch the procession. As evening falls and the torch lights grow brighter against the dusk of the returning night sky, the crowd usually becomes more excited and intent. While some are there for religious purposes and their own personal spiritual cleansing, others are content to be respectful spectators of this religious ceremony. For those visiting Japan on this date, it is worth the effort and the travel expense to line the avenues for this event.
The Fire Festival of Nachi The Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine can be reached in a 30-minute car/taxi ride from KIIKATSUURA Station.
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