The Hakkai-san Fire Walking Festival takes place twice a year in spring and autumn, at two different shrines at the start of the hiking routes up Mount Hakkai. The autumn festival is always October 20th at the Hakkai-san Son Shrine. Groups from all over Japan come to the festival to walk across hot coals to ensure health and prosperity.
The shrine is a really pretty affair at the foot of Mount Hakkai with a main shrine sitting on a slope, and a smaller shrine set in the cedar forest next to a small waterfall (under which devotees shower in mid-winter at another event!)
The festival takes place on a large open space in front of the main shrine. Fireworks announce the start of the festival at 11am. There is about an hour of praying and offerings from priests in elaborate dress and local dignitaries before the fire makes its way down the 88 steps from the main shrine to the big bonfire. This quickly catches and gives off an impressive amount of heat that drives the crowds back. The hot coals are raked and then the action begins. The priests cross first followed by groups of devotees from far and wide. Everyone else is allowed to cross after that. Young children, the elderly and the infirm all line up to cross and receive their blessings.
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