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Story Watch the Impressive Ritual of Fire-Walking at Mitokusan’s Sacred Fire Festival
A Not-to-Be-Missed Traditional Autumn Festival in Tottori Prefecture
By JNTO on 14 October 2022

Mitokusan, one of the well-known sacred mountain asceticism sites in Japan, will take your breath away in more ways than one. With an elevation of about 900m, this primaeval forest is renowned for its pristine natural environment as well as a long history of mountain worship and training.


mitokusan view

©Mitokusan Sanbutsuji


Located in Tottori Prefecture, near the famed hot spring town of Misasa, Mitokusan is an important pilgrimage spot for followers of the ancient practice of Shugendo. Visitors to this sacred site will discover beautiful temples, age-old religious statues covered in moss and scenic hiking trails. 


It is also home to one of the most extraordinary sights in Japan - the Sanbutsuji temple and its surrounding temple grounds.


At the base of the mountain is the main hall of Sanbutsuji, a historical temple founded in the year 706. Surrounded by the jagged faces of mountains and towering trees, the area is a breathtaking sanctuary. 


mitokusan temple


However, the highlight is the wooden Nageiredo temple found high up in the rocky mountain, balanced on the edge of the cliff wall. 


This remarkable structure is built right into a steep cliff that overlooks the valley below. Constructed about 1,000 years ago and supported by wooden beams, Nageiredo is considered an incredible architectural feat and designated a national treasure of Japan, the only one in Tottori Prefecture!



©Mitokusan Sanbutsuji


Mitoku’s Annual Sacred Fire Festival 


For centuries, the pilgrimage route up Mitokusan has been a journey of spiritual enlightenment for worshippers to purify the six senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and mind. 


Every year during the autumn season, this tranquil sacred mountain comes alive with the rousing flames of the Mitokusan Fire Festival. This festival is a long-standing local tradition that takes place on the last Sunday of October each year.


mitokusan fire festival ceremony

©Mitokusan Sanbutsuji


Accompanied by the mesmerising sound of conch shells being blown, ascetic monks climb the mountain while chanting. They also take part in the ancient Japanese mountain worship ritual of Saito Goma, where they throw wooden sticks with wishes written on them into an outdoor fire in the belief that those wishes will come true. 


mitokusan fire festival

©Mitokusan Sanbutsuji


The highlight of Mitokusan Fire Festival is hiwatari, the ritual of fire-walking. Monks and practitioners would walk across smouldering charcoal in their bare feet to ward off evil spirits and misfortune, wish for good health and fulfil big wishes such as recovery from illnesses with the Shugendo practice that combines Buddhism beliefs and ancient mountain worship.


However, the Fire Festival is not just for monks and practitioners of the ritual; it also attracts throngs of visitors every year to take a peep inside this ancient ceremony that is deep-rooted in tradition and culture.


The public can also take part in fire walking on the day of the festival in hopes of their prayers and wishes coming true.


Those who are interested to participate and experience the teachings of Shugendo can learn from the monks of Sanbutsuji temple who conduct fire walking training and other forms of religious training.


mitokusan statues


Besides the cliff-side Nageiredo temple and the sacred fire festival, a variety of hiking trails are also available to explore in this mountain sanctuary, such as the Misasa Onsen Course, the Oshika Valley Course, and the Tawara Highlands Course. 


Hikers can soothe their bodies and minds at the healing hot springs of Misasa nearby. This charming onsen town is famed for its hot spring water that’s rich in radon, a substance that is believed to improve the immune system and enhance the body’s natural healing power.


Mitokusan Sanbutsuji Temple
Address: 1010 Mitoku, Misasa-cho, Touhaku District, Tottori 682-0132
Website: http://www.mitokusan.jp


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