- A Shinto ritual held at the Nachi Falls and the Kumano Nachi Taisha to welcome the Kumano gods home.
- Kumano’s gods board portable shrines and return home to the Nachi Falls while being purified with fire.
- After returning home to Nachi Falls, the gods seem very happy.
A Shinto ritual held at the Nachi Falls and the Kumano Nachi Taisha to welcome the Kumano gods home.
In the region of Kumano, the religious sites of Nachi Falls and the Kumano Nachi Taisha have been registered as World Heritage Sites. Every year on July 14th, the “Nachi Fire Festival” is held at these two sacred places. In reality, this festival is held to help the 12 gods enshrined at the Kumano Nachi Taisha return to the Nachi Falls once a year. It long used to be known as “Nachi-no-hi matsuri” or Nachi’s Fire Festival as a Shinto ritual to welcome God with 12 giant pine torches and purify the roads.
However, it was designated as “Nachi-no- Ōgi matsuri” for the national important intangible folk culture asset this year, so the official name of Nachi’s Fire Festival has now change to “Nachi-no- Ōgi matsuri”
Kumano’s gods board portable shrines and return home to the Nachi Falls while being purified with fire.
The festival begins with a dedication of music and dancing to the gods at the Kumano Nachi Taisha. After this, the twelve portable shrines, which are decorated with fans, undergo a spiritual ceremony in front of the inner sanctuary. Through this ceremony, the gods board the shrines for their return to the Nachi Falls. Once the preparations to receive the shrines have been completed, twelve large torches are lit in front of the falls, and carried up and down the stone steps in a set sequence, purifying the shrines’ path with their flames. The torches, which keep these blazes lit, weigh about 50 kilograms. Shouting “harya, harya” to encourage each other, the men who carry these torches climb up and down the stone steps countless times during this ceremony.
After returning home to Nachi Falls, the gods seem very happy.
After descending the stone steps, the portable shrines are placed in front of the Nachi Falls. People sing rice harvest songs, hold fans decorated with the Japanese flag, and perform dances for good fortune dedicated to the gods. At that moment, inside each of the twelve shrines, you can see the figures of the gods enjoying their short homecoming. It is wonderful to think how this World Heritage Site’s majestic fire festival is, in fact, held to purify and to greet the gods during their return home.
Nachisan, Nachikatsuura-cho, Higashimmuro-gun, Wakayama pref.