Traditional fire festival revived in Tomioka after 8-year hiatus

16 August 2018

The “Hayama no Himatsuri” (Hayama fire festival), a traditional event boasting a history of some 400 years, was held in Tomioka town, Fukushima Prefecture, on Aug. 15 for the first time in eight years. About 50 young people dashed up an uphill path to Hayama Shrine in the town’s Kamiteoka district, each carrying a large fiery torch on the shoulder.

The participants, naked to the waist, lit their torches more than 2 meters long from a shrine flame and set out from the shrine compounds, shouting “sendo (literally 1,000 lights), sendo,” and climbed the 230-meter-high Hayama mountain. Spectators, including many townspeople who visited the festival from their temporary housing outside the hometown, applauded as the torch bearers braved falling sparks.

The festival is designated as the prefecture’s important intangible folk cultural heritage. It used to be held on August 15 every year to pray for a bumper crop and other wishes but was suspended in 2011 when the region was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

(Translated by Kyodo News)