Oniyo Fire Festival Part2 – Burning the Giant Torches

Part1 is HERE

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After 3 times of circle around the shrine, they then all gathered in front of the shrine belfry for the main event. When every group has arrived at their OH-TAIMATSU(big torches), all the small torches fire were put off, as well as other lamps and lights. The surrounding was in total darkness.

At exactly 9pm, everyone`s eyes went to one corner lit with a small light where a man was standing with a sea-shell(is it call sea-shell?) in his hand. He then started blowing the shell signing the start of the main event followed with a blow of some kind of music with a traditional flute.

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As the flute blow ended, the group of people started making fire to fire up the giant torches. With the 3,2,1 counting, they start burning the giant torches, which was poured with some alcohol(@ kerosene, am not so sure) before that. The quiet and dark surrounding then became lively as the place was brighten up by the fire, with drums beating and some performances at the front stage. While the torches were burning, they said their praying chants along. As the fire went further down the torches, they cut the ropes tiding them and threw the ropes to the crowds waiting, who believe that keeping them would bring good luck. If you look at the pictures, you might think that all the fire burnings look dangerous, as a matter of fact they are, but to ensure the safety of everyone, the firemen were present there at all time.

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When the fire had burnt about 1/3 of the torches, they then carried the torches one by one to a place in front of the main shrine, where they stopped there continuing their praying words for some time. After that, they carried the torches again, this time circling the shrine area until the torches were almost burnt up. During that time, they would stop a few times to have someone climb on the torch and cut the ropes around the it as the fire went towards the other end. The group behind us at one time had a British boy doing that and he was encouragingly cheered by his other group members. Lastly, they carried the torches to a disposing place and with a speech and some claps, they end their festival for this year.

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We then went back together with our group members to the civic hall. There, everyone was treated with some Japanese deserts and their most liked favorite drink, the green tea. We feel so lucky that we were given the opportunity to participate and watch from close a big traditional event like this one. We would like to thank the committee members for inviting us and even providing the transport for sending us back to college. Hope that they will invite us again next year, so that our friends who didn`t make it this time would also get the chance to experience your unique culture.よろしくお願いします!

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Number six

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What : A curious girl

Where : Kurume Suiten Festival, Kurume-shi

When : Summer`09

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Oniyo Fire Festival Part1 – Burning the Decorations

*Some photos in the post are not suitable for 17years and below`s viewing…

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Oniyo Fire Festival, which is held in Daizenji Tamatare-gu Shrine in Kurume-city, is one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan. This event takes place on the last day of the Shinto ritual, ONI-E , on the 7th of January every year.

According to the diary of  Yakushiji Temple, the festival originated from a happening  in the year 368, when Fujidaijin(a minister at that time) cut off the head of Yusurachin, who was torturing local people, and burnt it.

On this 7th day after New Year,  they will have a Shinto ritual during the festival in where people pray for peace and safety , good harvest and the prevention of disasters as well as to ward off evil spirits.

This year we got an invitation from the event`s committee to take part in the event. We were excited to join but when told that we would have to wear cawat during the festival, we declined the invitation. Kami tak sanggup nak pakai cawat tu. Sebab bukak aurat satu, pastu nak pakai tengah winter yang sejuk beku ni? Event tu malam pulak tu. Tak sanggup!

However, a few days after that, we were told that we can join the event as a 見学者(observer) and we agreed. However, as our substitutes, four Japanese junior students came forward to join the cawat group. And on evening January the 7th, off we go riding on Pakcik Kida`s car.(Pakcik Kida is from our hostel`s office)

We get off at Yamanomachi Civic Hall, where we would join the Yamanomachi`s locals who would participate in the event. During the festival, they will be 5 more groups from the other areas and they will gather at some place near the shrine later. We arrived quite early, so while waiting for the others to come we were served with some food. Then, more and people came and joined us at the table. Some of them looked scary, some looked like yakuzas, but when we try and have some chat with them, we found out that all of them were very friendly. They were all excited because they don`t have  that much chance socializing with foreigners like this. We got ourselves busy entertaining  their questions about our countries, cultures etc. Oh ya, at the same time, maybe encouraged by excitement on those people`s faces, our Laos friend, Danang suddenly told his desire to join them. Without much hesitation they welcomed him and upstairs Danang went to change into the cawat. After that he was told to take some sake(liquor) to heat his body as it will be ice-freezing outside.

At about 700pm, when everyone was finally present, they had some briefing and then off we went heading to the shrine.

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At a field near the shrine, they started burning the New Year`s house decorations made from dry wheat branches. They burnt them in groups divided according to their origin areas while chanting their praying words.

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These guys below are my juniors, and at the most right is Danang. Tengok macam sejuk giler. Tapi, since most of the time they were near the fire, they were actually very hot. I tried going close to the fire and it was sangat panas ok. But when you distanced yourself from it, it`ll be freezing-cold. So, you must have the skills to determine the appropriate distance from the fire so that you won`t be to hot, or too cold. Suam-suam kuku kata orang.. =P

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At about 830pm, it was almost time for the main event.The group paraded to the shrine and circle the shrine area 3 times carrying their small torches before gathering  at the places where the big torches are.

These big torches which are made from MOSO-DAKE(the biggest kind of bamboo in Japan), are called OH-TAIMATSU. They are 6 of them and they are 1meter in diameter, 15 meters long and weigh 1.2 tons each. These  OH-TAIMATSU are placed in front of the belfry in the shrine yard.

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To be continued in Part 2…

Jalan-jalan on a cold day

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On that snow day, I had some time before class starts, so I went for some photo hunt around the college.

Saw the other students who came early to school playing with the snow.

Didn`t get to take any of their pics though, because the Japanese are quite reluctant to let other people, especially unknown people to photo them.

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There were snowmen almost every single corner I passed through.

And snowball fights too.

Among the snowmen,you would usually expect to find something like this.

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But who would expect this?!Japanese do thing out of the box, huh?

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I then walk out from the school compound to enjoy the views outside.

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Five minutes before 9.30am, I head back to attend my only class for that morning.

At that time, it was cloudy and dark, and the snow started to fall again.

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At about noon, I finished my class and I went for another photo hunt.

This time, I went to the neighborhood nearby.

And this time, it`s a clear-blue sky and the sun was shining brightly.

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After about 20 minutes outside, I ended my jalan-jalan that day

and went back to hostel to fill my empty stomach.

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Number five

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What : Snow day

Where : Kurume-shi, Fukuoka

When : Winter, Jan’10

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Number four

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What : Snow on branches

Where : Kurume-shi, Fukuoka

When : Winter, Jan 2010

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Number three

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Who : Mom and daughters

Where : Wasshoi Summer Festival, Kitakyushu

When : Summer`09

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