The Toba no Himatsuri, also known as the Toba Dai kagaribi, or The Great Bonfire of Toba, is a unique and intense harvest festival held in Nishio, near Nagoya. This festival, with a history of approximately 1,200 years, deeply rooted in the local culture and traditions, is terrifyingly crazy and well worth a trip in the cold to see it.
What is Toba no Himatsuri?
The festival dates back 1,200 years. It is a time-honored way of predicting the upcoming year’s harvest and weather. The festival’s main attraction is the construction of two giant torches made from sun-dried kaya grass and sixty bamboo rods. These torches, called ‘suzumi’, are around five meters tall, weigh about two tonnes, and are wrapped with twelve ropes symbolizing the months of the year. Inside the ‘suzumi’, ‘shingi’ holy trees are placed. These torches are then placed at the center of the Toba Shinmeisha shrine.
Two teams, namely ‘Kanchi’ from the east and ‘Fukuchi’ from the west of the Toba River, participate in a festival. Each team has a 25-year-old man designated as ‘shin-otoko’ (god man) and his ‘kamio’ ministers. The festival has three main events. In the first event, the ‘shin-otoko’ and the ‘kamio’ ministers, wearing loincloths, perform a cleansing ritual in the icy river. In the second event, the suzumi are set on fire as night falls. The ‘shin-otoko’ and the ‘kamio’ ministers climb ladders and enter the flaming torches to retrieve the shingi holy tree and as many ropes as possible despite the risk of serious injury. The third event involves the outcome of the ritual, which is believed to foretell the nature of the upcoming harvest and weather. A win for the Kanichi team suggests a prosperous mountainous harvest, whereas a victory for the Kanko team indicates potential droughts or natural disasters. After the event, the collected shingi are taken to the shrine as offerings. It’s believed that chopsticks made from the shingi prevent tooth diseases, and tools crafted for sericulture from them yield abundant silk.
Toba no Himatsuri Event Details
- Date and Time: Held on the second Sunday of February. Blessings start at 15:00, river cleansing at 15:30, and torch lighting at 20:00.
- Where: 89, Toba-cho Nishio (map)
- Location: Toba Shinmeisha shrine in Toba-cho, Nishio. The shrine is a 10-minute walk from Mikawa Toba station on the Meitetsu Nishio-Gamagori line.
- Website: katch.ne.jp