Once a year, locals and visitors alike gather after dusk on the grounds of Aso Shrine in rural Kumamoto for the Hifuri Shinji, or Fire Swinging Ritual. Bales of straw are set ablaze and swung round in circles on the main pathway in front of the shrine in an appeal to the shrine deity for a bountiful harvest in the coming season. Once the prayers have been fulfilled, the audience is welcomed onto the grounds to swing their own fiery bundles. A fascinating, beautiful and slightly dangerous festival, all rolled into one!
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