Translated by Shinji Takaramura
The Magnificent Parade Of Torches On Mount Daisen, Tottori
Written by MATCHA-PR
Mt. Daisen Summer Opening Festival, one of the major traditional events in Tottori, is held each June, with one of the highlights being the Parade of Torches. This is a report by a MATCHA staff member who joined this impressive procession.
A River of Fire! The Unforgettable Parade of Torches on Mt. Daisen, Tottori
One reason why Japanese culture never ceases to amaze visitors from abroad is its ability to impact our lives and our values. Preserving historical traditions, Japanese culture is ingrained in daily life here, making us want to visit Japan again and again.
The Parade of Torches, which takes place on the eve of Mt. Daisen Summer Opening Festival, is one such influential event that could change your view of life.
In the parade, which is held annually in June, 2000 participants with torches in hand come down the shrine mountain path around dusk.
The procession begins from the Ogamiyama Shrine's Okunomiya. This shrine, along with Daisen Temple, is a center for spiritual practices related to the mountain worship that has a long tradition on Mt. Daisen (*1). The Okunomiya is located on the mountainside, about 800 meters from the approach to Daisen Temple, which is lined with shops and bustling with visitors.
*1 Mountain worship (sangaku shinko): A form of religion that worships a mountain as a deity.
The Shinto priest who presides over the ceremony at the shrine leads the procession, followed by ascetics dressed up as the fabulous creatures called tengu, which have a deep connection to Mt. Daisen, and yamabushi (ascetics training in the mountains).
The impressive yamabushi ascetics lead the participants through the dark mountainside.
They blow the horagai (conch seashell) to ward off the animals living the mountain and guard the procession. The magestic sound of the horagai adds to the mystical atmosphere.
The procession heads slowly down the mountain, passing the sculptured gate and the torii.
The Parade of Torches is a part of a yearly ceremony dedicated to Mt. Daisen, a sacred mountain and a residence for Shinto deities. After the Shinto ritual at Okunomiya to pray for a safe mountaineering season, participants descend the mountain bearing the sacred fire in their hands. This is a ritual to ensure the safety of the visitors entering the holy realm of Mt. Daisen.
Joining the parade of the torches allows you to experience firsthand ancient religion in Japan. Participants can visit the temples and shrines located in the forest of Mt. Daisen, and witness the yamabushi and Shinto priests with their own eyes. The experience is refreshing and offers a valuable opportunity to clear your mind.
Mt. Daisen - History and Culture
Mt. Daisen is called Hoki Fuji, as it resembles Mt. Fuji when viewed from a certain angle. It is located in western Tottori, rising 1729 meters above sea level. It has been revered as "kami imasu yama" (a mountain inhabited by deities), nurturing sangaku shinko, a Japanese belief which reveres nature as a deity.
Mt. Daisen has been regarded as a place of worship for more than 1300 years, containing various small temples related to Daisen Temple.
Ogamiyama Shrine's Okunomiya, the starting point of the procession, enshrines Okuninushi no Kami, the deity of prosperity and rich harvest, who is also revered for driving away evil spirits. Okuninushi no Kami is described in historical documents, including the "Kojiki" ("Records of Ancient Matters") and Nihon Shoki ("The Chronicles of Japan").
In ancient Japan, Shinto and Buddhism were closely intertwined. Shinto's view of nature and the Buddhist teachings spread together in a syncretic form of religion. Although Shintoism was separated from Buddhism in the Meiji Period, this ancient type of syncretic religion still remains throughout Japan, including Mt. Daisen.
Savor Local Cuisine Before the Parade
On the day of the parade, the Bakuroza Parking Lot which is located at the entrance of the approach to Daisen Temple hosts various events, including stage performances and the Daisen Gotochi Gourmet Festival, a great opportunity to taste local dishes.
Various shops also line both sides of the approach, so it might be a good idea to have a quick meal before the parade.
Here you will find delicious snacks like soft-serve ice cream made with local milk, fragrant taiyaki (a fish-shaped pastry) and yakidango (toasted dumplings) filled with sweet bean paste. If you're lucky, you might be able to meet Gu-chan, the local tengu mascot character.
Everyone Is Welcome in the Parade of Torches!
If you want to join the Parade of Torches, head to the Bakuroza Parking Lot around noon. Registration starts at around 13:00, so wait in line to get a torch ticket, which costs 500 yen. Please note the registration will end as soon as the tickets sell out.
The torches will be distributed from 15:30, at a designated spot along the approach. Receive your torch by 18:00 and head for the Ogamiyama Shrine's Okunomiya. From the Bakuroza Parking Lot, it will take about twenty minutes on foot to the shrine.
The Parade of Torches commences at 19:00.
Precautions for Parade Participants
1. The torch contains an oil-soaked rag, so until the start of the parade, hold the torch straight up, and away from the fire.
2. After the parade starts, keep the torch away from the people around you.
3. The temperature will drop at night, so have a jacket ready.
4. Participants will be walking on a stone-paved approach, so be sure wear comfortable shoes.
The Parade of Torches is held every year in June, on the eve of Mt. Daisen Summer Opening Festival. In 2018, Mt. Daisen will be celebrating 1300 years of history, and hold "The Parade of 1300 Torches" on September 30th to honor the anniversary. The participation fee is 1300 yen, and participants will receive a commemorative souvenir.
If you visit Japan in autumn 2018, be sure to join the Autumn Parade of Torches at Mt. Daisen. We are sure you will have an unforgettable experience!
For details, please check the fifth page of this pamphlet.
For more information please check the official website of Tottori Prefecture: https://www.tottori-tour.jp/en/
Please also check out our articles in the Tottori section.
Written by Ramona Taranu
Sponsored by Tottori Prefecture