Over the weekend, I attended Taimatsu-akashi, the "Torch Festival," in Sukagawa. Considered one of the three best fire-related festivals in Japan, this one has a 400 year old history. According to my friend, it is a celebration dating back to when residents built massive torches to scare away a feudal lord who was trying to sack their city.
The torches are sponsored by schools and businesses, and constructed by the city. Students then carry small torches from the base of the hill where the giant torches are standing to the summit. From there, trained professionals take the torches and use them to set the larger ones aflame.
As you can see, this is a line of children carrying the very hot (and dangerous) torches.
They had an extra torch, so I was also allowed to carry one. Needless to say, the fire was hot!
These are the pillars that the smaller torches are used with. The writing on each pillar is the name of a business or school. There were perhaps a dozen in all.
Trained professionals took our torches at the summit and hung them from a wire, creating a fence of fire (!) that we walked past when we were finished.
Afterward, I went back down to the bottom of the hill and watched a taiko show.
You can see the pillars aflame in the background; it looks like the forest is on fire but don't be fooled! Unfortunately, the summit was too crowded and the police stopped admitting people, so this is the best photo I was able to manage.
This is what remains of a giant wooden castle built and painted to resemble the city's former castle. The story goes that the residents lit an effigy of their castle on fire to convince the invaders that the city had already been sacked. At least, according to my friends.
It was a lot of fun and I'd like to go again next year, so I can have a better view!