Fighting fire with fire
I coincided my visit to Miyajima with the fire prevention festival (known as Chinkasai) held annually on 31 December. As night fell, tourists and locals gathered along the narrow street facing the famous torii gate awaiting the festival to start.
It’s a bit difficult to explain what actually happens. Basically, groups of men carry a gigantic torch on their shoulders and parade around the relatively small area while chanting “yoi yoi”.
There’s also a smaller version for the kids. Cute eh?
Smaller torches are then offered to everyone to be lit from the fire of the big torches. The fire is blessed and traditionally people bring the fire home to be used for cooking the new year meal. Today, people take the extinguished torch home instead as a fire protection charm for the new year ahead.
Everyone gathering around a small bonfire for warmth and to light their torches. It was a chilly winter night as I remembered.
While it’s a spectacular and fascinating event to attend, I must admit it’s rather dangerous (they do have emergency personnel on standby). In the photo below, the men perform “stunts” by spinning the giant torch. Naturally, everyone got out of the way swiftly.
It was a really intense and interesting festival though it got me thinking… creating a huge fire hazard in order to prevent future fires is rather ironic, no?
Considering that my current line of work is in fire safety I’m hoping that I got my fair share of fire prevention blessing for 2014. Seven months on, it’s so far so good for me. Heh.