Photographer's Note

Toba-dai-kagaribi (the great bonfire of Toba)

One of the most peculiar, extraordinary festivals in Japan, which annually takes place on the second Sunday of February in Hazu-town (Mikawa-Toba Station /Meitetsu Gamagori Line - Toba Shinmeisha shrine ).

The climax of the festival. The spectacle of men jumping into the flames to take the ‘holy tree’ is simply unmissable.

Two large torches called ‘Suzumi’ are planted at the centre of Toba-Shinmeisha-shrine on the eve of the festival. The torches are about 5 meters high and they weigh up to 2 tons each. Inside each massive pile of bamboos and sun-dried miscanthus are a ‘Shingi (holy tree)’ and 12 ropes symbolising the months of the year, which will be sought by the men once the torches are kindled.

 The ¨Shin-Otoko¨ (holy-men) with their peculiar look in their hoods and costumes, as well as their nimbly movements, remind one of lithe cats, and the helpers are often referred to as ‘Neco (cats)’ by the local residents. The men desperately compete against each other until they take the holy tree and the 12 ropes out and offer them at the alter of the shrine.

The purpose of the festival is to forecast the climate and the harvest of the coming year according the ancient traditions of local people.

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13 Feb 2011 20:02

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Additional Photos by George Massahide (CycleEyes) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 215 W: 0 N: 10] (24)
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