Memories from abroad - Mt. Kurama ABLAZE!

in travel •  9 months ago


Bathed in the orange of massive blazing torches being

Born through the narrow mountain streets of a Kyoto suburb, my eyes were focused through the lens of my camera aiming to get the best shot I could. This would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, even though I lived relatively nearby, and I didn't want to miss a single moment. And, tonight that focus almost broke my leg.

I was with a good friend, Joe, whom I've talked about before, and a new friend, Thomas. He was a photographer. Traveling Asia on random client assignments shooting some pretty obscure cameras. We were in the process of switching locations when I stepped into a roadside culvert. Narrow, deep, and hidden in the darkness I went down with my whole weight. In the process also dropping my camera into a bucket of nearby water (true story). Through some random stroke of lucky, neither my leg nor my camera broke. But it did give us all a start.

It was late October and Fall was thick in the air.

The sun had set hours before but it still seemed bright as day with all the torches and fires burning about. The festival my buddy Joe had invited me to was the Kurama Fire Festival (Kurama no hi matsuri). Held in a small town nestled in the arms of Mt. Kurama north of Kyoto, this yearly celebration is meant to ease the passage of deities by lighting their path out of the city.

Way back when when Kyoto was known as Heian, a huge quake hit the city (940) so the emperor decided to move the Yuki Myojin (imperial court’s protector) to Kurama to prevent further natural disasters. Something about the north being considered the gate for demons and evil spirits. Since Kurama is north of the city, and is a temple, it apparently helped to keep the evil from coming into the capitol. The festival is a celebration of the original torches that lit the way for the imperial procession that made the move. Details are a bit sketchy...wikipedia doesn't have a page on it and the tourist sites are...light on details.




We had arrived earlier in the afternoon to check out

The town and avoid the inevitable rush of people. Apparently it's traditional for the homes to open up their doors/windows to display family treasures. Such as swords, armor, paintings, stuff like that. It was pretty cool. I'd been living in Japan for years by this point and done a lot of travel, but had not seen something like this before. Treasures, yes. Homes showing them off, no. It was a lot more personal.


As the sun set the festivities really began. Fires were lit, people got their drink on, and the traditional music started. The energy was use the oft used imagery. Everyone was so excited. So many smiles. People bustling from here to there. All the tourists with their cameras. All the locals chilling like villains.

old man.jpg

There are a lot of people involved in the festival. From small children all the way up to really old men. And a lot of them carry torches. The size depending on who was carrying it, ranging from small ones for kids up to huge 80kg multi-people monstrosities. Made of pine, the smell as they burnt was...well...amazing. Especially in that Fall air.


old people.jpg

There were even shrines from

The individual hot springs carried down the street leading up to Yuki Shrine. Torches and OMikoshi (Japanese name for portable shring) being swung in rhythm to shouts of 'saireya sairyo' (have a good festival!). It was pretty nuts. Definitely not a kind of parade most Westerners are used to. But, the coolest thing, is that even as a foreigner it felt like we were included. The good vibes spilling out on to everyone there. Tourist and local alike. Which is rare in Japan to feel as a foreigner. But, that's a super complex subject for a different post.

The festival goes on for quite a while

As the procession makes it's way leisurely to the Yuki Shrine. Starting at 6pm it goes on way past midnight, at least for the locals. You don't want to miss the last train unless you've got the cash for an expensive taxi. It gets a bit crowded, but, you get used to it.

train 1.jpg

train 2.jpg

I hope you got at least a small feel for the Kurama Fire Festival in Japan.

It's a crazy-awesome festival to see. It's described as one of the 3 most eccentric festivals of Kyoto and if you ever go, you'll know why. Going through this memory again reminds me of a lot of things. The sounds of the torches burning, the cries of the festival chant, the color orange, smiles, the cold breeze, youth...


break time 2.jpg

Someday, I really hope you have the chance to experience a Japanese festival like this. I was unbelievably lucky to have had so many experiences like this and others while I lived abroad. Anyone can do it, if they ignore all the rules and follow their dreams. It just takes a lot of work. But if you're willing to do it...

Similar Posts
Memories from abroad - A special birthday
Memories from abroad - A spot of tea in the fields of the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Memories from abroad - Exploring the Cambodian countryside


old man 2.jpg

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

I have the dream to travel and I hope it comes true soon.
I'll also put Japan on the wishlist


You should! Japan is an amazing place to visit. Go for at least 2 or 3 weeks to really get a good feel for the country. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Dude, the photos are fantastic and the Tengu guy is a great catch. Resteemed on my account and @steemitbc. This deserves some upvotes.


Thanks, and thanks, and thanks! :) Found all these pics from my old life recently on an old hard drive. I pretty much freaked out when I found the videos. And I found more videos of other stuff as well. Hopefully got some more interesting posts from then coming. :)

Congratulations, Your Post Has Been Added To The Steemit Worldmap!
Author link:
Post link:

Want to have your post on the map too?

  • Go to Steemitworldmap
  • Click the code slider at the bottom
  • Click on the map where your post should be (zoom in if needed)
  • Copy and paste the generated code in your post
  • Congrats, your post is now on the map!

Love the travel logs! Keep it up. Great description and pictures. How was Kyoto?


Thanks! :)

Kyoto was amazing. Lived there for like 6 years. So many memories it almost hurts to try and remember them all, hehe.

Beautiful photos! You are very good at taking photos of human!


Hehe, thanks! I love taking photos of humans :)

My word that is some real traditional celebrations right there :-) I like that, the idea with the spirits and demons being dispelled, very old worldy ;-)

Health and Safety here would have a fit lol But it's very interesting. 80kg? That's some torch! I would imagine the guys supporting the business end of that would get a bit warm. Seeing a community coming together like that to celebrate something special always gives me a sense of encouragement.


Yeah, the sense of community in Japan is very strong. But, along with the good of that there is a lot of bad. Lots of stigmas and such so support from people around you comes with a price.

Safety? With all those torches? lol. They're was always a bucket of water within arms reach no matter where you were. And everyone is so used to the danger of these festivals they just unconsciously make sure not to do something too stupid, hehe. The one where hundreds of people carry a thousand point portable shrine and run it down the street and take sharp corners...I don't think anyones died from that recently, lol.


They are certainly showing us how it's done ;-)

Hi there! This post had been selected to feature in the next edition of [Travel Japan Weekly Digest]. Congrats! This weekly digest will focus on showcasing the beautiful side of Japan including attractions, destinations, food, unique experience, festivals, cultures, etc. Find out more from this post.

A photo and sentence from your post may be used in the weekly digest. If you do not agree to that, please reply to this message. Thank you! We hope to see more of Japan from you!


Thanks much for putting me in your travel digest! Always a pleasure :)

I agree with you... who lives abroad has also the chance to see more local events. I lived in Poland, India and Australia I know what you mean. By the way the shop or local architecture close to where that men sit down it is something represented many times in Japanese anime and/or cartoons thanks for sharing


Hehe, you're welcome :) I was so lucky to live there for so long. Now I have the opportunity to tell a lot of those stores.

Really interesting post :) Thanks for sharing. You were very lucky to experience a ceremony like this, and the photos are beautiful that you took. Good work


Thanks for stopping by and reading! Yes, I was very lucky. Not many people get to see and experience things like that in their lives. :)

Really great photos, I'm going to follow and looking forward to future posts.


Thanks for dropping by! I'll try and put out some awesome stuff for you to read ;)