いごもり祭 Igomori Festival
For those of you who are faithful readers of this blog you will remember my post from last year about the Igomori Festival (see January 2007 archive). Well, this year I went again to the festival and it was just as firey as last year. This is the festival that began more than 1,000 years ago to scare off an evil spirit that was haunting the local Hahasono woods.
What they do is light a huge bamboo torch on fire and haul it around the neighborhood to scare off the spirit and thus insure a good crop for the year. The torch is about 3-4 meters (12 ft) in height, really big in girth and weighs a lot. They light a big fire inside of the shrine building with flames licking the ceiling yet somehow not burning down the whole thing. Then they stick the torch on the fire and get one end burning real good. After it is sufficiently on fire about 6 men haul the torch about 3 km around the neighborhood in the dark.
It is pretty amazing to watch. This year I followed the torch around the neighborhood for a while. It was pretty funny because they would get to a stop light and wait for it to turn green. Since the festival isn’t very well known I can only image the shock of the people in cars that happened to see 6 men in all white robes carrying a humongous burning torch down the street in the middle of winter. This year I just brought my little digital camera so the photos I got might not be such great quality. I don’t like to use the flash as it just ruins the night time eerie feel, but no flash often comes out blurry. Here are the best photos I could get.