Brave firewalking tengu at Furubira Kotohira Shrine
The grand annual Kotohira Shrine celebration called the “Tengu Firewalking Festival”, which features a performance of firewalking through intensely blazing flames, was held on both July 9 and 10 in two locations within the town of Furubira in the Central Hokkaido Shiribeshi region. Spectators from within and outside of the town looked on at the first installment of this ritual of bravery after a two-year suspension due to COVID-19.
The firewalking is a ritual in which the mythical “Sarutahiko” character complete with a tengu creature mask purifies objects including the portable mikoshi shrine that has been carried throughout the town. The July 9 evening performance took place in the Hokaiji Temple parking lot. Approximately 300 town residents and telephoto lens-toting photography enthusiasts encircled the scene.
Amidst the reverberation of powerful taiko drums and light flute sounds, wood shavings were lit a little after 8:00 p.m. Wearing single-tooth raised wooden clogs, the man dressed up as Sarutahiko kicked and scattered sparks as he passed three times through the flames that danced up to nearly three meters in height. Next, lion dancers and a portable mikoshi shrine also passed through the flames, eliciting sounds of awe from the spectators.
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