Friday, 22 January 2010

Nozawa onsen fire festival

Less than 24 hours after the snow festival we were heading to the far north of Nagano to Nozawa onsen for the famous Dosojin Matsuri. Famous for it's world-class ski resorts and hot water onsens, every January Nozawa onsen hosts this crazy traditional festival.

Dangerous and somewhat violent, god alone knows how this festival is 'allowed', but nonetheless it happens. Only men from the village are allowed to take part, but it is watched but a massive, tightly-packed crowd of people from all over the place, including many foreigners and visitors to the country.

The festival consists of a giant wooden 'fort', build from lengths of wood and branches, as far as I could see. It stood about as high as a standard UK house, and perched on top are the 'elders' (42-year-olds) shouting "Bring the fire! Bring the fire!", as the 25-years-olds down below "defend" the fort from the "attackers", which consisted of waves of children from toddlers to 20-something-year-olds brandishing burning branches, staves, etc (I know! I know!). This "attack" lasts almost two hours, at which point the attackers have got close enough to set the fort properly alight. The elders on top scramble down a ladder, and the entire audience watches as the flames take hold and the fort eventually collapses. Then, two giant banners bearing the names of all the newborn children in the village are thrown into the flames (presumably for good luck, or at least I hope!) and everybody cheers loudly for the millionth time.

The spectacle is certainly something to see, everyone is in high spirits and enjoys themselves (some a little too much). We had a fantastic time, and to add to the festival the snow didn't snow pouring all night. We literally had to dig the car out of the snow when we left and push it up hills to get out of the village. A great evening.

The newborn banners on the left and right

Violent and young

Burn baby, burn (disco inferno?)

1 comment:

  1. I suppose they learn with their fathers how to do it safely? And comeing from an english guy is quite rich... the land where tyhey allow the cheese race! down the hill! ;)