There are roughly 400 shrines throughout Japan that contain the name Akiha. The main Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine is the stage for this festival. Since the deity of this shrine is the famous protector against fire, companies in the fire-prevention and energy industries come from all over the country to pay visits. The highlights of this winter fire festival held on Dec. 16th are the three secret dances of the main Akiha Shrine, the "dance of the bow", including a bow and five arrows, the "dance of the sword", including sword and bell, and finally the "dance of fire" that is performed in the dark after all lights in the shrine are put out. All of these dances include prayers for protection against fire, water damage and other disasters. If you can bear the cold of winter, on a clear night, you can experience a most beautiful and solemn dance below the starry sky.
At 10:00pm on the 16th, three dances take place in one room of the shrine, performed by one shrine priest. It start with the "dance of the bow", where the dancer moves to the sound of flute and drum, holding five arrows. After the the dance, the four arrows are shot in each direction North, South, East and West, and the final arrows is shot into the shrine ceiling. It is said that when the last arrow is shot right and sticks on the mark, the following year will yield a rich harvest.
During the second “dance of the sword,” a Shinto priest dances in order to soothe the earth’s spirits and to suppress the demons, while holding a sword in his left hand and a bell in his right. Furthermore, by letting his bell go from his right hand and gripping the sword with both hands, the priest slays people’s sins and slashes their impurities.
The final act of the night is the “dance of fire.” All the lights in the shrine are extinguished, and a lit Taimatsu torch is brought out into the total darkness. Once the Shinto priest receives the Taimatsu in this mystic atmosphere, the sound of flute signals the beginning of the dance. Due to the vertical shaking of the torch combined with the spinning motion of the body, the flame itself appears to be dancing in the dark. Since the old days, it is said that the purifying powers of fire are stronger than that of salt or water. With the many wishes and prayers of such purification, the fire festival of Akiha comes to a closure.
You may take pictures, although please refrain from using the flash.
The ceremony is held at night, therefore you must wear warm clothing and bring a flash light.
Nearest station: Nishi-Kajima Station (Enshu Railway)
Access to Akiha Jinja Shrine Catch the direct bus from Nishi-Kajima Station to the Upper shrine.
The bus only makes one round trip a day during the 15th and the 16th;
Departing Nishi-Kajima Station at 10:00 AM, arriving at the upper shrine at 10:57 AM
Departing the upper shrine at 1:30 PM, arriving at Nishi-Kajima Station at 2:42 PM
Since there are no buses during the hours of the fire festival, you must catch a taxi or use a rental car.
Address of Akiha Jinja Shrine
841 Ryoke, Haruno-cho, Tenryu Ward, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref.