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.
Early afternoon onward
The festival parade ends at Kanbayashi Onsen, only moments from the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
From Nagano Station, take the limited express service on the Nagano Dentestu Railway to Yudanaka Station - 45 minutes / JPY1290. From Yudanaka, local buses and taxis will get you to Shibu Onsen in a matter to minutes. The festival starts from there and heads to Kanbayashi Onsen. Kanbayashi can also be reached by bus or taxi from Yudanaka in only 5 to 7 minutes