GUIDE Kanoukaen Fire Festival by JNTO on 12 February 2019
Located in the northwestern part of Kyushu, Nagasaki Prefecture has a very unique landscape – almost half of its landmass is comprised of islands, while the other half features lush mountains and a coastline that’s dotted with peninsulas and bays.
Needless to say, Nagasaki Prefecture is definitely a hot spot for those interested in exploring nature as it has plenty of mountains, islands, beaches, and hot springs to visit. Of course, Nagasaki is not without its must-try cultural and culinary experiences — and one of them is the Kanoukaen (fire festival) held in spring in the town of Chijiwa, which is part of the scenic city of Unzen.
The Kanoukaen Fire Festival has roots that go back 400 years when the samurai living in the vicinity of Chijiwa made their torch-lit journey back home after battle. Today, the tradition is alive and well as this is event is re-enacted every year by over 200 participants from all over Japan (and maybe a few tourists who can speak English). These participants rent traditional samurai armour and carry torches that light the 2km-long night procession that starts from the shores near Fukuishi Park to the Tachibana Shrine in Tachibana Park.
Where can you find the Kanoukaen Fire Festival?
You can view the Kanoukaen Fire Festival anywhere along the procession route, but it’s recommended to view it close to its destination at Tachibana Park because it allows you to do two things — see the park’s cherry blossoms bloom during the day, and see the Kanoukaen procession at night.
At Tachibana Park, there are over 1,000 sakura trees blossoming in early spring, lining the park’s paved walking paths with radiant white and pink blossoms. By the evening, you can just wait for the torch-lit procession of samurai armour-clad participants to arrive.
What’s Worth Eating in Nagasaki Prefecture?
Thanks to its history as an international trading port, Nagasaki has two interesting foreign-inspired dishes that’ll satisfy your taste buds —the Sasebo Burger and Toruko (Turkish Rice).
The Sasebo Burger began in the early 1950s when local eateries began to create their localised spin on the burgers for US troops stationed at Sasebo Naval Base. Similar to the burgers the troops found back home, the Sasebo Burger featured local ingredients including beef patty, bun, lettuce, and tomato piled high. As time went on, more local variants of the Sasebo Burger began to pop up, including burgers with minced pork patties, chicken cutlets, thick cut bacon, and either fried eggs or an omelette.
While there are plenty of places throughout Sasebo with their own version of the popular burger, there are three famous joints that warrant a visit:
Turkish Rice is another dish created in Nagasaki, but inspired by foreign cuisine. Turkish Rice is so-named because of its use of rice pilaf, which is topped with tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet), chicken katsu, or beef patties. True to the eclectic nature of Nagasaki cuisine, there are numerous variations of Turkish Rice — with some dishes even including spaghetti with meat or cream sauce, or an omelette in addition to the rice pilaf base.
- Hikari Burger (from 400 yen): Considered by many to be the “original” Sasebo Burger joint, Hikari Burger started as a simple burger stall in 1951. Now the place is a popular eatery for those looking for a “traditional” no-frills Sasebo Burger. Opening hours vary by location.
- Sasebo C&B Burgers (from 400 yen): This popular Sasebo Burger joint is as famous for its quirky atmosphere as it is for its food, especially the “C&B Deluxe” that features two beef patties, two thick cut bacon slides, a fried egg, and two slices of cheese. Opening hours vary by location.
- Sasebo Burger Big Man (from 300 yen): Established in 1970, this famous burger place known for its wide variety of offerings including its “Gokusen Burger” that packs two beef patties, 3 slices of bacon, a fried egg, and two slices of cheese. Opening hours vary by location.
How do you get to the Kanoukaen Fire Festival?
The easiest way to get to Tachibana Park to view the Kanoukaen procession is to hop on a bus or train to Isahaya Station if you’re coming from Nagasaki City. From Isahaya Station, take the bus to Kuchinotsu and get off at the Tachibana Jinjamae bus stop. From there, you’re only about 3-5 minutes away from Tachibana Park.
Don’t forget to check out the official Kanoukaen Fire Festival page to get the latest participant application and procession route information for 2019 once it becomes available.
Date: 23 March 2019
Entrance fee: Free for spectators, but you’ll need to pay a fee to participate, which varies from 3,000 to 5,000 yen depending on the type of samurai armour