The Takasanji Oni Matsuri, also known as the Ogre or Fire Festival, is an annual event at Takasanji Temple in Japan. The festival usually occurs on the Saturday closest to February 7th, in line with the New Year in the old Lunar Calendar. It is a vibrant celebration of ancient customs, cultural heritage, and community spirit.
This festival has its roots in Japanese folklore and religious practices and is meant to ward off evil spirits and invite good luck at the beginning of the lunar year. The tradition has been passed down through generations, reflecting the enduring nature of Japanese cultural heritage.
The ceremonial participants’ ages are carefully selected: 42, 25, and 12 years old. These ages correspond to traditional Japanese belief systems, where certain ages are considered pivotal in a person’s life. These milestones, known as “Yakudoshi,” are critical times when individuals are thought to be more susceptible to misfortune. The festival, therefore, serves not only as a communal celebration but also as a form of spiritual protection for those at these significant life stages.
A Ritualistic Cleansing Ceremony
At the heart of the festival lies the purification ceremony that takes place in the main hall of the Takasanji Temple. This ceremony symbolizes the expulsion of negativity and the welcoming of positivity. Three males from the local community are chosen to participate in the ceremony, representing the demons based on their ages. They wear masks that symbolize different generations, namely the grandfather, grandmother, and grandson, which signifies the continuity and interconnectedness of the past, present, and future. Additionally, around 30 men born in the same year as the year of the festival and with the same sign of the Chinese zodiac chase the demons through the temple while carrying torches until the fire and noise drive the demons out. The amount of fire within the priceless wooden temple is astounding, and how they have managed to prevent the temple from burning down all this time is bewildering.
An Enthralling Fire Ceremony
The Fire Ceremony is a breathtaking display where men born in the same Chinese zodiac year as the festival’s year participate in a symbolic chase of demons while wielding torches. This ritual represents driving out evil spirits with fire and noise, signifying the expulsion of misfortune and the purification of the temple. The use of fire in this context is also reminiscent of Shinto and Buddhist customs, where it is believed to be a cleansing element.
Accessibility and Recommendations
Attendees are advised to dress warmly as the festival occurs during colder months. Buses are available after the festival to ferry visitors back to the station. To ensure a hassle-free return, joining the departing crowd promptly is recommended.
- Start from Nagoya: Take the Meitetsu Main Line from Nagoya Station to Higashi Okazaki.
- Transfer to a Meitetsu Bus: Upon reaching Higashi Okazaki, transfer to a Meitetsu bus heading towards (Bus 20) Onuma or Kamiyonagochi (bus 21)
- Bus Journey Duration and Departure Point: The bus ride is about 25 minutes. You’re directed to board the bus from bus stop #4
- Final Stop: Takisanji-shita: The designated stop to alight for the temple is the “Takisanji-shita” bus stop.
Yamagomori-107 Takicho, Okazaki, Aichi 444-3173 (map)