Have you ever seen walking-on-fire things anywhere?
I’ve come across people walking on fire for their training in “oriental” scenes in comedy movies.
For example, Johnny English Reborn. At the beginning of the story, Johnny is in a monastery in Tibet after his failure as an MI-7 agent. One of his training methods to develop his spy skills is walking on fire. And how about New Earth Army people in The Men Who Stare At Goats? The hippie-like warriors in the secret unit in the American army are walking on fire to develop their psychic powers for world peace. It seems that walking on fire looks very exotic for people from Europe-originated cultures.
For a Japanese blogger?
It was very “oriental” for me, too! I mean, I did believe that there were things like that, but it was a story far from me. I’d never thought that it would come to my life.
|Light a fire and… – Mt. Takao Walking On Fire Festival, Japan|
But it came to my life.
I once wrote the 5 reasons to visit Mt. Takao in Western Tokyo. This time, Yakuoin Temple there held an yearly festival to walk on fire. I asked myself, “Should I go and see and experience it myself ?” My answer was YES.
I like to laugh at comedy movies on my sofa, but I am a blogger who sometimes talk about culture and humanity seriously. Schedule… OK. I didn’t find any reason to hesitate.
This article is a report & practical sightseeing guide for walking-on-fire festival at Yakuoin Temple in Mt. Takao.
Let’s see the REAL walking-on-fire!
Location & Schedule of Walking On Fire Festival in Mt. Takao
Yakuoin Temple’s yearly Walk On Fire Festival, (Hiwatari sai in Japanese) was held on 8 March, 2015. It is the 2nd Sunday every year.
It was held in their parking area at the foot of Mt. Takao, not at the main building on the hillside. It’s a parking area, but don’t image a busy place with a lot of cars. There are tengu statues and Buddhist shrines for the festival. The rural town with a stream is cozy, so it might be a good idea to stroll around while waiting.
My Report from Mt. Takao!
The festival began at 13:00.
Then, some of them had statements and rites. They meant that they would reject evil, toxic thoughts in their mind. Some of the statements are not in Japanese but in Chinese, so I do not understand the entire, (It is common about things at temples in Japan,) but the purpose of the festival is same. They used a sword, arrows, etc, for the rites.
|Rites at the beginning of Walking-On-Fire Festival in Mt. Takao, Tokyo, Japan|
They shot four arrows toward four directions. You can catch and take it! I saw an international traveler caught one of the arrows. Amazing! Nothing will be a better souvenir of Tokyo!
For me, it was impressive that one of them stated that they wouldn’t hurt others nor themselves and would focus only on evil thoughts.
After the statements and rites, they lite a fire at the center.
|Fire the wood and grass.|
The fire was so big that the smoke sometimes clouds my eye sights completely. And your clothing and bags will be smoked, but you won’t regret it! I’m thinking of uploading more photos on social media.
Shugen ascetics threw wooden plates to the fire. People wrote their wish on the plates.
|Burn the wooden plates with wishes|
Other ascetics threw the temple’s tengu (= Japanese goblins) cards to visitors. You can catch and take them, too.
I caught two golden cards this time. I cannot help saying to myself, “Well done!”
|Cards that I caught at Walking-on-fire Festival in Mt. Takao!|
Setsubun festival in February is to catch soy beans. There are many cultures to catch something.
Talking about my photos of fire and people, I did NOT add any effect on them. Shugen ascetics beyond the fire are fuzzy like an oil painting only because of the heat haze. Isn’t is interesting for photographers?
Finally, they started to walk on fire. The priests keep reciting the Buddhist sutra all the time, and they pray for your good luck. The priests and shugen ascetics go first when the ground is hottest.
We Can Walk On Fire, Too!
Common visitors can walk on fire after the” professional” people! It is completely free to join.
Travel Tip: If you hope to experience it, visit there with wearing shoes and socks which you can put off easily. Towels will be useful after walking on fire.
|Common visitors walking on fire|
There were many international visitors. Incredible! Mt. Takao has been a hiking trail for Tokyo locals for years, but some international people know this place, this festival, these days.
My Nintendo 3DS welcomed a guy from Province in France. Province reminds me, a Tokyo local, of the super cool L’OCCITANE Cafe in front of Scramble Crossing in Shibuya. South France is on my bucket list, and I dream of how beautiful Province is. But he came to Tokyo to see the walk-on-fire festival!!!
|I was in the line to wait when I took this photo!|
My turn is coming.
I know that your interest in on this question – Hot?
For me, it was not so hot. Warm.
I think that one of the reasons was specific on the day of the festival. It was rainy in the morning, and it stopped raining before 13:00 when the festival began, but the ground was still wet before walking on fire. Another reason was that I was in the last part of the line of visitors; It is hotter at the beginning and becomes cooler later. The place you walk on is made of burnt leaves, so it was soft.
Walking on fire sounds dangerous, but this festival is to purify ourselves. Shugen people hand little children. Not difficult. Just walk straight for a peaceful mind. It is NOT an ECCENTRIC thing. You’ll feel what I’m saying when you experience it.
In conclusion, I really feel that I was right to join it. Sometimes I feel like doing something to clear up my mind in the monotonous daily lives. I am happy to join the festival to take a fresh start again. Moreover, it is a great opportunity to see real shugen people.
|My plate that says Mt. Takao, walked on fire, and some prayer on the back|
I believe that you like traveling because of similar reasons. Especially if you are interested in this walking-on-fire festival, I suppose you want something completely new for your new life after your holiday. If so, this festival will be perfect.
I heard some international students in the line talking. One of them insisted that Mt. Takao is inside Tokyo, but others didn’t believe it. So she searched maps on her iPhone and proved that Mt. Takao is in Hachioji City that is part of Tokyo. Then, a guy shouted, “Really? Tokyo is such a big, modern and busy city, and here, people are walking on fire!!”
Tokyo has many aspects. Dig Tokyo Direct Diary, and you will find super modern buildings in the city, traditional festivals, extremely busy streets in Shibuya, calm and quiet Japanese gardens, serious cultures which have been for hundreds of years, and pop culture for today’s young people. I just talked about cute characters and I’m talking about walk-on-fire festival today! Which is your interest? You can choose in Tokyo.
So, next walking-on-fire festival will be held next March – you need to wait for a year. But Mt. Takao is always a beautiful and interesting place because of 5 reasons. I repeat them here.
- Easy and excellent access from Tokyo City
- Rich and mild forest that is typical in Japan
- Friendly trails for hikers
- Seasonal beauty – Fall Leaves in autumn and Cherry Blossoms in spring
- Unique culture of Tengus (Japanese Goblins) and Shugen (The ultimate experience is this festival!)
If you like one or more of them, why not add Mt. Takao to your travel schedule?
See MORE of Mt. Takao
- Mt. Takao in Japan (Part 1) – a Guide to Tokyo’s 3-Star Sightseeing Spot
- Mt. Takao in Japan (Part 2) – Tengu Legends in Western Tokyo
- Mt. Takao in Japan (Part 3) – Yakuoin Temple & Shugen-do Culture
- More Photos of Walking On Fire Festival and the forest of Mt. Takao on Flickr
Visitor Information – Mt. Takao
Descriptions of Mt. Takao
599 meters high above sea level
Registered as a National Park
There are 6 and more hiking courses in Mt. Takao. The main course is Trail 1, where you go through the Octopus Cedar Tree, Buddha’s Bone Tower and Yakuoin Temple to the top. 3.8 km, 100 minutes to the top. If you go up on the cable car or the lift, 50 minutes to the top.
How to Get to Mt. Takao
Take Keio Line from Shinjuku Station to Takaozanguchi Station. (Both stations are the terminals. This is the best and only way. You need to get to Takaosanguchi of Keio Line, so need to take Keio Line somewhere.)
50 minutes on rapid trains.
“Mt. Takao Ticket” sold by Keio Railway is DEFINITELY my recommendation. Just 1380 yen including the return ticket of Keio trains and the Cable Car or the Lift. Unbelievable saving! Even some Tokyo locals don’t know.
You can purchase “Mt. Takao Ticket” from ticket vending machines in Shinjuku or other Keio Railway stations except Takaozanguchi. Valid in the day of your purchase.
Official Website in English: http://www.keio.co.jp/english/tickets/discount.html
- Weather Forecast in Mt. Takao – A Japanese website, but the icons will tell you the daily and weekly forecast.
- Takao Tozan Railway International Official Website – The company of the Cable Car and the Lift. There are also maps and hiking guides of Mt. Takao.
- Keio Railway’s Official Website about Discount Tickets – For the information about Mt. Takao Ticket. Can choose English, French, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
- Keio Railway’s Mt. Takao Information – A beautiful site with photos and maps.
- Yakuoin Temple Official Website (English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese)
Hotels in Shinjuku – It’s the best way to stay in Shinjuku because it’s the terminal station of Keio Line to Mt. Takao and convenient to go to anywhere in Tokyo. You can choose a hotel from a wide range of hotels in one of the most massive cities in Japan.