Sep 05, 2018 Culture Yamagata District

A Trip over 500 Years Back in Time?! Otokunchi Fire Festival

#Autumn ,#Culture ,#Event ,#Event2018 ,#History ,#Local Festival ,#Photogenic ,#Tradition

There are many large-scale Festivals in Hiroshima, such as the Flower Festival, Tokasan and the fireworks festivals that take place all over the region. One Festival I highly recommend is the Otokunchi Fire Festival! This festival is held in the Ogahara area of Kita-Hiroshima city, which is located in the north of Hiroshima.

Kameyama Hachiman shrine area

This area was the ancient battlefield of the battle of Ogahara, which lasted for eight years from around 1400. In the end of September every year, the Otokunchi Fire Festival is held, and parades of armored soldiers, hand held fireworks, and taiko song with dance performances take place. At the center of the Festival is the majestic atmosphere of Kameyama Yahata Shrine. At night, the area around the Shrine overflows with enchanting light and flame, and there are also food stands serving local cuisine lined up.

What is Otokunchi Fire Festival?

Otokunchi means “the 29th”, and this annual festival has been held at Kameyama Yahata Shrine from September 28th to 30th by the old lunar calendar since long ago. A fire festival has also been held since 1993 in an effort to reenact the battle of Ogahara. By reenacting the power shown by farmers during the battle at the fire festival, people hope that local residents will be revitalized, and this area, which is shrinking in population, will be reinvigorated.

What Is the Battle of Ogahara?

This battle was over a land dispute between Kurisu, the estate steward of Aki Province, and Fukuya, the lord of Iwami Province. It’s famous as a battle which displayed the power of farmers, as they fought to choose their feudal lord. During the battle, the farmers used tactics like tying torches to pine trees to make it look like they had a great number of soldiers, and sending raging bulls into the enemy lines. To imitate this “torch attack,” the castle and Kameyama Yahata Shrine are now lit up at the festival.

Also, a strategy called “kagyu no kei” was used where a bull was sent charging toward the enemy with torches attached to its horns. Originally, it was a strategy where swords were attached to the bull’s horns and torches to its tail, so that when the bull charged at enemies the swords would pierce and kill them, while the torches on its tail would spread flames to the enemy camp and cause a great fire.

The Highlights of Otokunchi Fire Festival

Goshinko

The festival starts from Goshinko, a parade of Tengu (a long nosed goblin) , Japanese Lion and people carrying Mikoshi, a portable shrine.

Kagura

Songs and dances offered to the gods of Japanese mythology. People wearing gorgeous costumes and expressive kagura masks dance to the beat of accompanying taiko drums and flutes. Kitahiroshima is a considered popular region for Kagura, even in Japan.

Hand-held Fireworks

There’s also a torch parade, “kagyu no mai” dance, giant torch procession, and so on. This festival is full of charms, but I think the best part is seeing people dressed as armored warriors and the magical world created by fire and light.  The Festival takes place only once a year, so it’s sure to be an amazing experience. It feels almost like you’ve slipped over 500 years back in time. Please enjoy the colorful reenactment of that era!

Event Information

Otokunchi Fire Festival
Date Middle of September
Sep 22 (Sat) in 2018
Venue Kameyama Yahata Shrine
198 Kameyama, Miyaji, Kitahiroshima-cho, Yamagatagun (map)
Closest Station Kamikoujinbara bus stop
Website Kitahiroshima-cho Tourist Association (JP)
Free
Entrance Fee

Access from Hiroshima City

By Car

Approx.1h30mins by car from Hiroshima station. Using toll road, get off at Togouchi IC and continue straight down Route 191.
* The place is difficult to get without a car or a bus. If you cannot go by car, I recommend staying a night at a local lodging facility in the area.

By Bus

Hiroshima Sta.
or
Hiroshima bus center

Kamikoujinbara
Bus
(2h30mins)

Festival Venue
Walk
(3mins)

 


Drop pin mark: Bus Stop
Star mark: Festival venue

Route1

Price:¥2,110 Time: 2h30mins Change: 1time

Hiroshima Bus Center

Kamikoujinbara
Bihoku Koutsu (highway-bus)
Bound for Bihoku kyuryu Park
(45mins)
¥1,310

Kamikoujinbara
Souki Bus Chiyoda geihoku, Kanagi Line
Bound for Kamikoujinbara
(1h6m)
¥800

Route2

Price:¥2,530 Time: 2h20mins Change: 1time

Hiroshima bus center

Togouchi IC bus center
Ishimi Koutsu Shinkoueki Line
Bound for Masuda-ekimae 
(1h)
¥1,390

Kamikoujinbara
Souki Bus Kake togouchi Line
Bound for Kamikoujinbara 
(1h15m)
¥1,140

Route3

Price:¥2,530 Time: 2h20mins Change: 1time

Hiroshima bus center

Chiyoda Inter
Hiroshima Dentetsu Miyoshi Line<Nakasuji>
Bound for Miyoshi Shogakko-mae
(54m)
¥1,390

Kamikoujinbara
Souki Bus Chiyoda geihoku, Kanagi Line
Bound for Kamikoujinbara 
(1h6m)
¥800

Route3

Price:¥2,530 Time: 2h20mins Change: 1time

Hiroshima bus center

Chiyoda Inter
Hiroshima Dentetsu Miyoshi Line<Nakasuji>
Bound for Miyoshi Shogakko-mae
(54m)
¥1,390

Kamikoujinbara
Souki Bus Chiyoda geihoku, Kanagi Line
Bound for Kamikoujinbara 
(1h6m)
¥800

Route4

Price:¥2,110-2,150 Time: 2h-2h15mins Change: 1time

HIroshima Sta.
or
Hiroshima bus center


Chiyoda Inter
Geihoku Koutsu Highway-bus
Bound for Kanponogou-Shobara
(1h)
Hiroshima sta.
¥1,350
Hiroshima bus center
¥1,310

Kamikoujinbara
Souki Bus Chiyoda-geihoku, Kanagi Line
Bound for Kamikoujinbara
(1h6m)
¥800

 

We recommend checking the timetables befoehand.
* The Saturday timetable has fewer buses running than on weekdays.
Hiroshima Bus Center:  https://www.h-buscenter.com/en/

Learn More: How to Use the Hiroshima Bus Center

Accomodation

The closest accommodation to the venue. Okonomiyaki and Tofu Steak is their signature menu!

Minshuku Yamabiko
Address 1265-3 Koujinbara, Kitahiroshima-cho, Yamagatagun (map)
Closest Station Kamikoujinbara bus stop
Website Official Website

 

*If far from the venue, you can travel by bus or taxi. Please keep in mind that there are not many

 

Photo Credit: KtitaHiroshma Tourism Association & Hirsohima Prefecture