Nachi-no-Hi-Matsuri, which is one of the three largest fire festivals of Japan, is staged in the Kumano mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, an area registered as a World Heritage Site.
12 vermilion mikoshi (portable shrines), 6 meters tall, decorated with ogi fans and mirrors, are designed in the image of the Nachi-no-Otaki Falls (the Great Waterfall of Nachi) near the shrine.
At the Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine, the waterfall
itself is the object of worship and is regarded as a deity.
During the festival, you can enjoy viewing the mystical scene of 12 huge 50-kg pine torches waved around so very close to these portable shrines that it appears as if the portable shrines are about to be scorched.
The enormous pine torches represent the 12 deities dwelling in Kumano as well as the 12 months of the year.
The portable shrines, which are produced in the image of the sacred falls, are filled with the spirits of the 12 gods, and then purified by the fire of the pine torches; in this manner, vitality is enhanced through these sacred rituals, which is one important objective of this festival.
Once the festival starts, people carrying the portable shrines on their shoulders give out loud cries as they run up the steps of the shrine, while people holding the large pine torches dash down the steps to the great applause of the spectators.
Then the portable shrines and large pine torches are moved to the falls of Nachi, and here a ritual is performed to pray for the power of the deity of the waterfall to fill the air.
Water falls from a height of 133 meters, and looking up at the falls against the background of primeval forests, you will surely sense an air of sacredness.
As it becomes very crowded, we recommend that you arrive at the falls early, before the ritual starts so that you can have a good view of the fire festival.
Place: Kumano Nachi-taisha Shrine
Dates: July 14th
City: Nachisan, Nachi-Katsuura-cho, Wakayama Prefecture