kurama in flames
If the sparks that fly when two flint stones are rubbed together give you a semi-boner, or if the lighting of a match gives you a whacking great woody, then the Kurama Fire Festival will likely make you as stiff as a rigor mortis-ridden rabbit found on a freezing winter morn in the glorious mountains surrounding this tiny village half an hour north of Kyoto.
Now I'm not a fire starter, twisted fire starter, but after reading about this festival, I thought I'd go along for some flaming good festive fun. The problem was, the entire population of Kyoto also had the same idea.
This meant that on Thursday, all the people who were here at lunchtime...
....were here at dinnertime....
The parade takes place along a narrow bonfire-filled street bordered by wooden houses against a backdrop of tinder-dry trees as a result of a drier than usual summer. Perfect conditions for a blazing good night.
The crowd was made up of:
30% Japanese spectators
10% Tall Westerners blocking the view of the Japanese spectators
60% Police officers with megaphones
The number of police officers in attendance was quite astonishing. I'm sure it meant that at the same time there were no police officers in the whole of the rest of Japan, allowing criminals across the nation to run riot.
Apparently the people in the parade chant "sairei, sairyo" as they move along the street carrying enormous pine torches, but unfortunately I couldn't hear it as the police were chanting "move back, move along" through their enormously loud megaphones.
A megaphone with the volume turned up to 11.
A megaphone-happy cop.
Many police officers had swine flu. Or didn't want to catch swine flu.
At around six o'clock it all kicked off. Firestarters, twisted firestarters were scurrying about starting fires all over the show, and before long, thick billowing smoke was rolling down the main street...
Kurama was quickly ablaze, with some bonfires singeing the eyebrows of those standing too close....
A police officer warms his hands on one of the many fires.
An RPPT - rocket propelled pine torch
A couple of participants warming their extremities by the fire.
By eight o'clock there was so much fire around that the oxygen was starting to be sucked out of the air.
At one point, a bonfire close to me started lashing out, like a violent drunk looking for trouble. Chaos ensued....
Beware - fire can be unpredictable.
There was a flash and a bang and before I could say "Where's the water?", I found myself in the middle of a virtual fireball....
Thankfully the fires were eventually brought under control and order was restored. And then it was time to leave.
As I made my way to the station, I saw a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows. Ah yes, it was a policeman with a megaphone.
Fire factor: 10 out of 10
Most dangerous place: Everywhere
Least dangerous place: In the lake
Noise: Mostly from megaphones
Good for: Pyromaniacs / megalomegaphonemaniacs
A review of the Danjiri Matsuri in Kishiwada can be found here.