One of Japan's three major strange festivals, this fire festival held annually on August 26th and 27th at both the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine and the Suwa Shrine, is known as Yoshida's Fire Festival.
The rituals start at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine on the 26th, from 15:00. In the evening hours, carriers known as Seko, bring two portable shrines, the Myojin Omikoshi and the Oyama Omikoshi to O-tabi-sho, their resting spot for the night. Around the same time, locals set fire to the 70+ giant torches made of pine standing 3 meters tall, as well as the torches of every household. In a moments time, the entire city is lit aflame, becoming a sea of fire heating up the festival that burns into the late hours of the night.
On the 27th, the omikoshi kept inside of O-tabi-sho, is removed and paraded around Yoshida city in the afternoon. As dusk comes around, it arrives at the Sengen Shrine. The festival reaches its finale after circling the Takamanohara inside of the shrine grounds. The festival is also known Susuki Matsuri(Silver Grass Festival), after the name of the branch of a sacred silver grass tree held in hand when attending the rituals.
Ritual servants known as Caretakers, or Sewanin, play an important part at this festival when visiting the Sengen Shrine. From the three surrounding boroughs, 14 young men are chosen as representatives to be a part of the main annual shrine services and dedicate themselves to various projects regarding the fire festival. Finding contributors to offer donations towards making the giant pine torches possible is considered a particularly important mission, and they become busy running about, gathering donation six months before the festival. When August comes around, they will take off their own work and burry themselves in the heavy load of festival preparations.
Even now, you will be able to see the lot of young men crying tears of accomplishment as the fire festival comes to an end and they are relieved from their positions in front of Zuishinmon Gate.
As the Mt. Fuji shaped Oyama Mikoshi, or "O-yama San" as the locals call it, is violently whisked around on the shoulders of its carriers, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the 1 ton O-yama-san being thrown to the ground, an intriguing and rare act to do to any portable shrine. On the afternoon of the 27th, as the Mikoshi is walked around town, the sound of it crashing to the ground can be heard from afar, "thud, thud thud!" This act is said to have come from past locals trying to appease and quiet the erupting Mt. Fuji by throwing its "double" into the ground. This ritual happens at four different locations along the parade route so make sure to witness one of them!
The climax of Yoshida's Fire Festival is during the Susuki Matsuri held at Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine on the 27th. As the night approaches and the sound of drums echo throughout, the Seko come rushing in like a wave with the Mt. Fuji shaped mikoshi and begin to circle the area of the shrine grounds called Takamanohara along with the viewers and local participants. It is an overwhelming sight to see over 300 onlookers follow the momentum of the mikoshi and its diligent carriers. The heat of the festival gives birth to a vortex as the tide of people reaches a max.
Onlookers may join in after the Myojin Mikoshi circles twice and the Oyama Mikoshi comes for the third lap.
Please do not sit on the pine torches before they are erected.
Please do not touch the pine torches.
Please keep distance from the Mikoshi (portable shrines)
Do not obstruct the path of the Mikoshi in any way.
Do not obstruct or distract the festival care takers and staff.
Please make sure to follow the local rule of only passing the pine torches on the left during the 26th.
Access to Fujiyoshida City
Fuji Kyuko (express) Line, Fujisan Station
Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja (Shrine) and the surrounding area of Kami Yoshida
Address: 5558 Kami Yoshida, Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture
5min walk from Fujisan Station