Huge flaming pine torches weighing 50kg are waved about in front of a holy waterfall at a shrine hidden deep within a sacred mountain range

Staged deep in the Kumano mountains of Wakayama, an area registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nachi-no-Ogi Fire Festival is one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan. The festival revolves around an exciting and daring combination of large flaming pine torches and ornately decorated paper floats.

Twelve six-metre tall mikoshi (portable shrines) are decorated with ogi fans and mirrors to resemble the flowing shape of the spectacular 133-metre tall Nachi Waterfall next to the shrine, which is venerated as the object of worship and regarded as a deity.

Once the festival starts, people carrying the mikoshi on their shoulders run up the steep stone steps of the shrine, while other people bearing 12 huge 50kg pine torches dash down the steps to the great applause of the spectators. At times, the torchbearers wave the torches so close to the highly flammable mikoshi that it appears as if they are about to go up in flames.  

The enormous pine torches represent the 12 deities of Kumano as well as the 12 months of the year. Meanwhile, the portable shrines are believed to be filled with the spirits of the 12 gods, which are purified by the fire of the pine torches.

After the ritual on the stairs, the portable shrines and pine torches are carried to the waterfall, where a ritual is performed to pray for the deity of the waterfall to bless the surroundings. Listening to the chanting of the ritual and gazing up at the waterfall against the background of primeval forests, you will surely feel a sense of sacredness and mysticism at these ancient rituals.

As it becomes very crowded, it is recommend to arrive at the falls early, before the rituals start, so that you can get a good view of the proceedings.


July 14th

Dates and functions are subject to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.