Date; the nearest Saturday to the old calendar is New Year holiday of the 7th of January (about 1 month later than the present calendar, 15th February 2020)
Location; Takizan town komo 107, Okazaki city, Aichi prefecture
Access; about 30 minutes by bus from Higashi Okazaki station (Meitetsu line). Higashi Okazaki is about 45 minutes by train from Nagoya
This time, an event we introduce is “Takizanji no oni matsuri” (Ogres fire festival in Takizanji-temple). It is held in Aichi prefecture. The climax of three ogres emerging around fire is really awsome. This event starats at 4:00 pm, but the time the ogres emerge is at the very end only 10 minutes before the end. It will be at about 7:45 pm. So, you must wait for 2 to 3 hours, if you see it from front. But, lot of people still go. They say it’s worth waiting for long time.
I went there 2020, so I write this article based on that time. But, the flow of the festival is the same every year.
On the day, the bus leaves every 30 minutes from Higashi Okazaki (東岡崎) station (Meitetsu line). If you go by car, there is a park in a place little far from the temple . A shuttle bus goes from there.
When I arrived there at 5:00 pm. You get off a bus, you go up the long stairs.
at the temple
You see a big main hall in front when you finish going up the last stairs. The beam of the roof greatly protrudes from main hall. The roof which covers the stage is large and imposing. People had already lined in three rows around the main hall (Honden) and camera tripods were lined, too. I guess they had waited from around noon.
There are several big barrels filled with water to the beam and in front of th main hall, and the firefighting team stands by, too.
On the left of me, there is another 2 story building, it is already full of guests. They are visitors who reserved special dishes (\4,000 as of 2020). 2 big torches which are set at the entrance are waiting to be lit to signal the start. In an average year, they say that it smows, that day was comparatively warm.
I will write mostly about the climax, but I’ll example the flow for the time being. If you want to Jump to the climax, scroll to the end, please.
This temple was built in 686 AD. At the end of the 12th C, the temple had accepted it’s faith from Minamoto-no Yoritomo who established his Shogunate at Kamakura, so this temple ushered in the golden age. Following a decline from 15 C~16 C, it was revived by the protection of the Tokugawa (Shogun of Edo shogunate 17 C~19 C) and continues up to the present day.
People who are called “Junininshu 十二人衆(12 people) manage the whole festival. They are the people who inherit this role from generation to generation, And a person who is called “Taiyaku (it means general manager) gives instructions.
At 4:30 pm, they beat Taiko (Japanese drum), and at 5:30 pm, the chief priest enters the temple, Buddhist memorial service begins.
It usually gets dark at around this time.
Juninin-shu group starts to go around the temple for the purpose of purging noxious vapors.
Meanwhile, a program host introduces the 3 people, 2 adults and 1 child, who play the leading parts of the ogres. They must purity themselves for 1 week. They can’t eat any meat, and can’t accept help from women. So, fathers offer their dishes to the children.
In this festival, 3 ogres emerge. They are called “mask of grandfather”, “mask of grandmother”, and “mask of grandson”. Why are there not “mask of father” and “mask of mother” ? There is a mysterious legend. Once upon a time, two priests visited this temple and they said “Shall we wear masks ?”. They wore masks without purifying themselves. They could not take off the masks and they had just died. People who felt pity kindly burried them. A grave remains now in this temple, so the group goes to the place to pray.
At 6:30 pm, people throw beans and rice cakes for good fortune.
At 7:00 pm, two young people get on the stage and wield long swords, “Naginata 長刀” for purging noxious vapors in the east and west. After this performance, two of the Juninin-shu perform a play of imitation of farming. They use words from the Kamakura period which even few modern Japanese can understand.
fire and ogres~climax of the ceremony
Finally they sing a song. By this time, the precincts would be overflowing and crowded with people. After they get off the stage, a young person holding a long sword gets on the stage again. He wields it, and in the end, he swirls it around and slams it down against the floor, making great noise. This abruptly signals the start of the main event.
Many people holding a big torch (about 2.5 meters long) with fire emerge. They shout in a loud voice “Wah, Wah, Wah !”. Fire alarm bells resound intensely. They wore a white towel covering their heads and cheeks and were dressed in all white. A fire blazed as if it reaches the roof. Sounds of fire alarm bell gave the audience great surprise making them feel uneasy at first, but later shout for joy. The area is instantly thrown into a commotion. The scene is amazing and fantastic.
They emerge from the right side and enter the left side of the main hall. The ogres still do not emerge. From the next lap, the ogres finally appear.
At first, the grandfather ogre, second, followed by grandmother ogre and at last, the grandson emerges.
Ogres siddled along between a big fire. Only grandson walks on the handrail held by people beside both side. There are about 30 torches is almost like a fire. This building is an important cultural property, so I was afraid of it burning down. But the people almost seemed as if they did not care about that, and they swung the torch up and down.
sparks were scatterd intensly, the fire blazed mor and more. Halfway during the lap, the grandson ogre was held high at the corners and at the front.
He totally looked like king of demons. But these ogres are not demons. They held a big rice cake in their hands, because they are ogres giving fortune to people. And a rice cake is a symbol of New Year’s fortune.
They went around the hall 3 times and it suddenly finished.
Time goes by frantically.
They were left stupe fied for a while, and before long they returned to reality. and begin getting ready to go back home.
There is an open space on the way out as the audience go down stairs where buses waited for them. The bus to the station from next line to the row of buses going to the parking lots. The buses depart in order as soon as it become full.
I think that this event is worth going despite the long waiting time. The experience of the ogres fire festival at Takizanji-temple, Lasts only 10 minutes but will remain our memories forever.