Smaller scale, same amazement - Nachi Biei Fire Festival
The “Nachi Biei Fire Festival” featuring a procession of men clad all in white carrying massive torches was held on September 1 at Biei Shrine in northern Hokkaido’s Biei Town.
The festival is usually held on July 24, but it was postponed this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The scale was also decreased from the traditional custom of walking to the shrine from a park that is located about seven hundred meters away to a smaller scale that involved participants walking back and forth several times over the approximately twenty meter long shrine entrance path. And in order to avoid crowding, no advance notice was given.
After the Shinto ritual, a procession of 12 participating men walk together and take turns carrying six torches that are 1.5 meters long and approximately 30 kilograms in weight each.
The Festival began in 1989 as a prayer for prosperity in the town and to calm Mount Tokachi, which erupted during a period lasting from December 1988 to March 1989. Because the town of Biei was originally developed by people from the Kumano region of Wakayama Prefecture, the Nachi Biei Fire Festival traditions are based on the Fire Festival celebrated at Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine.
The Festival Executive Committee Chair said, “Everyone felt that it is because this festival is only held once a year that we absolutely must enact it to keep it from fading away.”
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