In Japan’s Tottori Prefecture, Mount Daisen is the most popular hiking destination.
Every June, at the start of the rainy season, the mountain hosts the Natsuyama Festival. During the two-day festival, Shinto priests from Daisen’s ancient Ogamiyama Shrine pray for a safe hiking season. In fact, Ogamiyama Shrine marks the start of one of the trails up the sacred mountain.
There is usually a torch procession on the first night of the festival. Festival goers trek along a cobblestoned path, pass under the stone torii, and climb the steep stone staircase which led to the shrine.
When they get there, they can purchase bamboo torches. After the torches are lit, the march begins. Only the flames glow against the soft shadows, pine trees, and gauzy twilight sky. The acrid scent of kerosene from the torches overpowers the natural pine of the forest.
The procession resembles a river of fire coursing down the mighty mountain. From a bird’s eye view, the procession appears somber. However upon close inspection, many torchbearers enjoy taking selfies with their primitive fire sticks.
If you don’t really like fire, please don’t walk in the middle of the procession. The heat and smoke can be intense. Stick to the cooler edges. At the end of the march, the participants dump their torches into a giant bonfire near the carpark. Taiko drums beat thick under the starry sky.
Photos: © Live Lyfe Photography
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