Upcoming Event: Otebi Fire Festival お手火まつり
Where: Tomonoura, Fukuyama
When: July 11, from late afternoon until 1 a.m.
How to get there: Go to Fukuyama. Bus stop #1, next to Starbucks. 鞆の浦. 530¥. Follow the crowd to Nunakuma-jinja Shrine.
The Otebi Fire Festival is one of those rare Japanese events that combines the fun of a family friendly festival with the potential horror of being burned to death. It’s something that all ages can enjoy.
To boil the festival down into a quick sound-bite: Groups of young men carry large bundles of burning sticks up to a temple over many hours. During this time they chant and swing the burning sticks around wildly, all while a massive crowd of onlookers narrowly avoid being burned.
Every year this festival attracts hundreds of people from around Japan who come to watch as brave young men risk being burned as they carry bundles of burning sticks up to the shrine. Each group chants and sings as onlookers douse them with protective water. It’s a very strange and very exciting event that you have to see to believe. Words cannot express the intensity of this ritual, so I’ve included a video below. If you’re looking for something very different, check it out.