In mid-January, dramatic bonfire festivals are held at shrines all across Japan. The previous year's talismans, ceremonial arrows, and lucky charms are burnt and people pray for good fortune in the year to come. In Hiroshima, these festivals are known as "Tondo-matsuri" and the Gokoku Shrine in Hiroshima city holds an impressive one every year on January 15th.
You can hear the cheers of onlookers and the snap, crackle, pop of the bamboo as it is set alight, flames rising above the rooftops. In ritual fashion, everyone gathers in a circle around the fire to watch, snapping photos furiously, gobbling up grilled mochi, and praying for a fortuitous year ahead.