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Katsube Shrine is a short walk from JR Moriyama Station. The fire festival is held on the second Sat. in Jan. This is the shrine's main o-torii gate. MAP
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Katsube Shrine and giant torches. Six torches were laid within the shrine grounds. I saw the festival twice, in 2006 and 2013.
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Katsube Shrine in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture. The Honden main hall behind the building you see here is an Important Cultural Property.
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Unfortunately, you cannot see the fire festival at both shrines since they are held at the same time. Rear view of torches.
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Katsube Shrine was founded in 649 and originally dedicated to a warrior god by the Mononobe clan.
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Poster recruiting torch/taiko drum men aged 13-34 to carry the taiko drums and giant torches on the day of the fire festival.
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According to legend, 800 years ago during the Kamakura Period, Emperor Tsuchikado fell ill. A fortune-teller said that it was due to a monster orochi dragon in the marsh in the area of present-day Moriyama.
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The emperor sent hunters to kill the dragon which they finally did and burned the body. The emperor then recovered from his illness. When the dragon was burned, the body fell on Katsube Shrine while the head fell on Sumiyoshi Shrine.
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Both Katsube Shrine and Sumiyoshi Shrine hold a fire festival on the same day and same time so you cannot see both fire festivals on the same day.
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These little pieces of wood symbolize the scales of the orochi dragon.
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Photographers stake their place hours before the festival started. The prime viewing spots were already taken by 4 pm.
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Six more torches were right outside Katsube Shrine. They will be carried into the shrine one by one to be burned.
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A total of 12 giant torches would be lit up for the festival. In the old days, they had more torches, but the number has decreased due to the difficulty of procuring materials.
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The torches are made of tree branches, bamboo, and straw from rapeseed hulls. Many people are involved in gathering the materials and making the torches.
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Some 400 bundles of rapeseed hulls are used for the 12 torch heads. The torch head smells like tatami mat.
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The torches are about 5 meters long and weigh over 400 kg.
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Katsube Shrine torii.
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Another Katsube Shrine torii.
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At 6 pm, half-naked young men wearing loincloths march to the shrine. They are 15-34 years old. 迎え
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Prayer ceremony at Katsube Shrine before they start parading with three taiko drums. 修祓式(しゅっぱつしき)
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Taking a sip of sacred sake. They soon get pretty drunk with sacred sake as they walk around the neighborhood beating the taiko drum.
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The taiko men parade around the neighborhood from about 6:15 pm to 7:50 pm. (たいこ わたり 太鼓渡り)
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Taiko drum procession. Three taiko drums are carried around the neighborhood.
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At around 8 pm, the three taiko drums return to Katsube Shrine (たいこ みやいり 太鼓宮入り)
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In the foreground are torch stands, partially burnt.
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All the Torch and taiko drum bearers (たいまつぐみ 松明組) and helpers (せわかた 世話方) now line up in front of the shrine to receive sacred sake (おみき お神酒) and a good-luck charm (おふだ お札).
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They all carry a shushi stick imprinted with "Prayer for family safety and health" (奉納勝部神社 家内安全 かない あんぜん).
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The older men wear red loincloths and the younger ones wear white.
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The men receive sacred sake and a good-luck charm from a shrine priest. The ceremony is called, Shushi-mairi (しゅうしまいり 牛玉参り).
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The waiting crowd.
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One torch enters the shrine. At around 8 pm, the young men start hauling in the giant torches that were displayed in the neighborhood.
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One of the six torches carried into the shrine.
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A total of 12 torches are then in the shrine.
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Giant torches in Katsube Shrine, Moriyama, Shiga Pref.
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They turned off all the lights and lit the torches all at once! Torch lighting! (たいまつ ほうか 松明奉火)
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It gets very hot...
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Katsube Fire Festival: Men dance in rings in front of the fire. Also see the video at YouTube.
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After a few minutes and before it gets unbearably hot, the fire peters out.
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Rear view of burning torches.
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The giant torches burnt out within 10 minutes.
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Withdrawing the burnt-out torch
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My video of the Katsube Shrine Fire Festival on Jan. 12, 2013. Three Japanese kids report in English.
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Withdrawing the burnt-out torch
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You can take home a branch of the torch for family safety.
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The lantern bearers lead the way as the taiko drum bearers exit the shrine.
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Shrine worshippers
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Snuffing out the last flames
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All fires totally fizzled out.
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Local firemen
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Fire truck and hydrant right outside the shrine.
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Moriyama manhole, Shiga Pref.
 
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