3 fire festivals in Tottori and Shimane you should not miss

In Japan, Tottori and Shimane often get a bad rap. The shinkansen doesn’t go there so they must be pretty backwater places. Au contraire, my friend, au contraire!  There’s always something going on, if you know where to look. Like other prefectures in Japan, Tottori and Shimane have their own quirky light and fire festivals. Here are 3 festivals you should not miss!


1. Daisen Natsuyama Festival

Mountain worship is serious business in Japan. Every June, Mount Daisen, Tottori’s most popular hiking destination, hosts the Natsuyama Festival to bless the summer hiking season. During the two-day festival, Shinto priests from Ogamiyama Shrine pray for the safety of the hikers. On the first day, there’s a torch procession from the shrine to the car park. Get there early to snag a good viewing spot. The path will be bumpy and slippery with moss in some places. The stairs leading up to the shrine are also a bit steep. At the shrine, grab a bamboo torch. Then join the procession. It will look like a river of fire coursing down the foot of the mountain. People will be taking selfies so look out for flames coming your way in any direction.


2. Lantern Festival, Matsue Castle

Looking for a more raucous affair? Every autumn, Matsue Castle in Shimane prefecture hosts a taiko festival called Do Gyoretsu and a lantern festival known as Suitouro. The festivals re-enact the celebrations when Princess Iwa-hime of the Japanese Imperial Family came to Matsue to marry Lord Nobuzumi Matsudaira in 1724.  Take a turn hitting the taiko drums on one of many miyazukuri or drum floats. For the lantern festival, participants place paper lanterns on the castle grounds and along the darkened streets and Ohashi river. Spend the evening wading through a sea of lanterns depicting scenes from ancient and contemporary Japan and other parts of the world.


3. Hono no Saiten, Misasa

Feeling particularly brave? In October, head to Sanbutsuji in Misasa. Don a hachimaki headband and walk on freshly-charred logs during the Festival of Flames in central Tottori. Before you get a go, Shugendo priests will stride over the embers in tabi (Japanese socks), rope sandals, or naked soles. Like climbing Mount Mitoku, firewalking is an ancient Shugendo tradition designed to train the spirit and to “ward off evil and invite good fortune.” After you cross the fire, you can chomp on some free, ooey-gooey mochi (rice cake).

Photos: © Live Lyfe Photography and Hot Foot Trini

Are you burning to go to these fire festivals? Have you been before? Share your experiences!

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23 thoughts on “3 fire festivals in Tottori and Shimane you should not miss

  1. I love Japan but haven’t been to Tottori and Shinane before. Japanese festivals are great though, went to abe fire festival in Nara a few years ago, and the Gion Festival in Kyoto certainly stands out. These festivals look like they are worth a visit, I will have to remember them for future trips 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t realize “fire festivals” were such a big thing! It looks awesome – kind of reminds me of luaus in Hawaii, oddly. The lantern festival sounds really awesome, I would love to see it in person. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The photo you took of the guy in the mask at the fire festival is awesome, perfect for Instagram! Watching the crowd going down the mountain must be an incredible site, especially at night. If I visited these festivals I’d take so many pictures, I’ve never read about them before, this is such a unique post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am really not sure I am brave enough to try fire walking. I have seen people do it but being a bit clumsy, it might not be a good idea for me!! I love seeing local festivals and the different traditions there so maybe the next time I am in Japan I can find one.

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  5. Such interesting fire festivals! I’ve been to Japan a couple times, but never participated in any festivals. Daisen Natsuyama Festival sounds awesome to experience! Lantern festival would be a fun one as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have never been to Tottori or Shinana nor Japan for that matter, but these festivals would be reason enough to visit.The Lantern festival seems so spectacular with a sea of lanterns lining up the castle grounds. Japan seems to have the best festivals. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I saw fire walking when I was in an indigenous tribal community in China, and I still can’t figure out how they do it! Maybe their soles are so callused that they don’t feel it. All 3 of these festivals sound like a ton of fun – thanks for sharing about them!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I probably need a month or two when I travel to Japan, my itinerary is getting longer! I feel like I cannot miss these two. When is the best time to visit Shimane and Tottori? Thanks!


    1. Hey Therie! It’s best to visit Tottori and Shimane in fall to catch two of the above-mentioned festivals: the lantern festival in Matsue and the fire festival in Misasa. The Daisen festival only happens in summer.


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