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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Torii Gate Burning!

The Torii, or traditional Japanese gate, is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan.    It's  often found at the entrance of a Shinto Shrine whereby visitors pass under.     Shinto is the indigenous spirituality of the nation of Japan, and therefore I was intrigued when I heard there was going to be a burning of the Torii Gates - the symbolic entrance point of one of the most revered objects on this island nation.    

Deep in the heart of Hakone, a pristine hot spa reserve, there's a  charming little lake tucked away from plain view that people from all over the world travel to for that iconic picture postcard image of Mount Fujii with the lake, and the red hachiman(D) gate in the back drop.     Below is a diagram of all the different styles of gates in Japan.

C「明神鳥居(Myōjin torii)」、D「八幡鳥居(Hachiman torii)」、E「春日鳥居(Kasuga torii)」

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August is the start of fireworks season in this part of Japan.    The event I attended is called the Torii Gate Burning and Lantern Floating Festival.

The procession of Shinto priests  who bore the torches to the port were clad in white, the symbol of purity and righteousness in the Shinto faith.  

These torch bearers were to light two of the three torii gates then offer up a prayer to the gods and to bless the fireworks show that will follow.    Bottom pics are the lantern bearers.

There were two ways to enjoy the night spectacle.  You could either take the ferry and ride it out onto the lake where you could take in some pretty amazing views, or you could position yourself alongside the pier.    2800 yen / $35.00.    I chose the pier.   The 2800 yen went to beer and yakitori - 10 sticks!

The lanterns were scattered all over the lake and were lit up.   I stayed a few feet away from the shore and was lucky enough to find a fairly nice space to take pics.   I struggled getting set up and positioned properly, to be honest.  Kids were tripping over my tripod's legs and  it wound up  becoming a safety hazard which effected my timing and concentration a lot.

( Fear will find you: Dark Knight Rising musical score)

Watching  hot flames  drip down was hellish, yet pure in a sense.    Fire purifies and cleanses.   The significance for it on that night was to symbolise rebirth, newness, and a spiritual rite of the elders.

Snap crackle and pop as the flames burned through wood and paint.   The structural integrity was still there, even when the winds kicked up.    This was the beginning of the night show.   Suddenly out of the pitch blackness came out of nowhere it'd seemed, something alien to me,  a light that almost engulfed the gate.

The whole show was epic and one I will never forget.  Perhaps the best fireworks display I have ever witnessed with my own naked eyes.   I wasn't able to snap as many pics for this event; in needed to enjoy it.    Below is a video I shot with my iPhone.  


  1. those are some wonderful pictures,

    what camera do you use?? are you professional photographer??

  2. Your tradition seems to have lots of things in it,,,, from rebirth to purity...

    try to uphold it .. thanks for sharing

  3. The boat on the water seems cool ...

    can we go in to it and check?? will they allow??

    at what time of year can I come there and see something similar myself???

  4. I saw pics of such gates here and there ...

    Just like in movies .. good pics ..

    my friend once visited japan .. couldn't make such wonderful pics in those days .. poor me ..

  5. white for sure is sign of purity ...

    priests are cool .. they take culture to next level ...

    looks like you are doing good service to help propagate your culture



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