Kanbayashi Onsen Sendayaki (Fire Festival)
The Kanbyashi Onsen Sendayaki is a small but fascinating fire festival taking place in February each year. The event sees members of the ‘Mitake-kyo Chusei-kosha’ – a Shinto sect that worships Mount Ontake – move from the lower town of Shibu Onsen up to Kanbayashi Onsen in ceremonial attire.
Along the route, eleven ‘shimenawa’ (wound straw ropes) are cut with a sword as the participants pray for prosperity and defence from ill fortune.
Arriving in Kanbayashi Onsen, the procession proceeds to Fudo-son Shrine – only a short walk from the trail leading to the Jigokudani Monkey Park – where a series of Shinto rituals take place before the final act – ceremonial fire-walking.
Translating as ‘burning of one thousands bundles of wood’, the ‘sendayaki’ requires the three Shinto members to walk across burning charcoal as a form of purification. This is a little known yet very welcoming festival for international visitors. Well-worth experiencing should you be in the area on the day.