Hiwatari Matsuri, the fire festival at Mount Takao

After an intense day in Kamakura (post in Spanish), it was time to find out if we would have enough courage to follow the monks of Mount Takao in their crossing over the hot coals during the Hiwatari Matsuri (fire festival).

Hiwatari Matsuri is undoubtedly the most spectacular festival we have visited in Japan (so far ;-))


Walking on hot coals at the Hiwatari Matsuri

After our last night in our cozy Airbnb apartment in Shibuya, we went to find some lockers where we could leave our luggage during the day. Fortunately, one of the easiest things in Japan is finding lockers, there are everywhere, not just at stations. For example, we found a lockers area in the middle of Shibuya. We ended up leaving our luggage at Shibuya Station, near the Hachiko entrance, but there are many more throughout it, you can check its location on the station maps.

Once we had left our suitcases, we headed to Mount Takao as that day it was held there the fire festival, Matsuri Hiwatari. To get there you should take the JR Chuo line to Takao, and from there the Keio line to Takao-san-guchi. There you will find signs indicating the direction of the festival so you can’t miss it.

Follow the big sign and you won’t miss it

The festival is held at the base of Mount Takao. For those of you who may be interested, there is a cable car and a chairlift to access the top of the mountain.

Map with points of interest in the area of ​​Mount Takao

The festival was supposed to begin at 13:00. We arrived early because we weren’t sure if it would be help at the top or at the base of the mountain so were able to find a good spot to watch the show in the first line. When we arrived there was already some people, at 13:00 it was packed out.

It was drizzling all the time and it was quite uncomfortable to hold the umbrella, but the wait is totally worth it as we got to witness a great festival. In the middle of the circle formed by spectators there was a platform covered with branches and around it there was wooden boards.

We were afraid that the festival would be cancelled because the bad weather. It didn’t happen 🙂

The festival began with the entrance of the monks and their presentation. After some rituals (that unfortunately we couldn’t fully understand) they turned to the platform and threw the wooden boards on top of it. Then they set fire to the platform. There was a lot of smoke, so much that you couldn’t see anything. We think that the smoke blesses and purifies you so we are glad that all the smoke came in our direction 😉

Part of the ritual prior to the ignition of the woodpile
Lots and lots of smoke!

At the same time some monks walked a huge spherical structure up of “flags” under the smoke, purifying it. We found out later that the “flags” were sold to the visitors and bought one. It was a little bit expensive but who can say no to divine protection? 😉

Monks walking the big structure around the fire
The fire consumed the wood very quickly

The fire slowly extinguished and then the monks threw some kind of paper leafs with different character depicted in them; we were able to catch one of those leafs -with a drawing of a Tengu- and we kept it with great affection. Well, actually Pere could catch another leaf, but he instantly realized that an adorable Japanese grandmother also had tried to catch it … so he gave her it with a smile (and a certain resignation).

Some of the leafs that were thrown to the spectators

When the fire was finally put out, the monks prepared the hot coals and began to cross over them. Truth to be told, the moment the monks walked over the hot coals was amazing!

The highlight of the festival was the moment the monks walked over the hot coals

After the monks, it was the turn of the spectators to walk over the hot coals. By the way, you can find some videos of the festival in our youtube channel.

After the monks, anyone brave enough can walk over the hot coals

At first I was afraid (What if I get a blister and then I cannot walk?) so we went to buy lunch in one of the food stalls. I tried the Okonomiyaki and I liked it a lot, the Japanese have a great cuisine!

The okonomiyaki was delicius. Pere, a fusspot when it comes to food, ate yakitori

People were still crossing over the coals after our lunch! Then I told myself I will queue and I will cross over the coals, it’s an experience that I will hardly be able to repeat again! So I stood in line for a long time. I was a little bit nervous, I didn’t want to screw it up so I looked carefully how the other people was crossing (I don’t speak Japanese so I wouldn’t any instruction). When my turn came I removed my shoes and socks and I began to walk as a monk gave me his approval. At the end, another monk gave me his blessing.

Oh! ¡How brave! you may say… Well, to be honest… there were no hot coals when I crossed, it was just mud ¬_¬ At least I had wipes so I could clean my feet ^_^

After the festival we went back to Shibuya to pick up our luggage. That night we had a booking in a capsule hotel. We were very thrilled, after all we couldn’t go to a capsule hotel on our first trip to Japan (post in Spanish).

The hotel chosen was the Tokyo Kiba Hotel. You can’t get to its location directly from Shibuya with JR lines, so we took the Yamanote line to Shinbashi, then the subway (Asakusa line or Ginza line) to Nihonbashi and from there the Tozai line to Kiba. You can get to the hotel from the station in a 3 minute walk but we managed to get lost (even with our GPS) so we had to ask for directions. Two king girls told us the exact address and we finally arrived to the hotel. It’s certainly very close to the station. Its location is not very good, is a bit away from everything, but there’s a small shopping center (Fukagawa-Gatharia) nearby.

Beautiful night lighting in Fukagawa-Gatharia

Most capsule hotels have separate floors for men and women. As far as we know, Tokyo Kiba Hotel is the only hotel that offers double capsules for couples.

Someone snores… and I’m looking at no one in particular…
These are the double capsules.

Aside from the experience of sleeping in a capsule, which is not bad, the hotel has little else to offer. In fact it is full of gaijins willing to try the famous capsules. The reception is open 24 hours, there you can leave your luggage. They also offer lockers for your valuables, coats and smaller backpacks.

The capsule hotel offers lockers for your valuables.

Inside the capsule you can find a TV, a bed side table and the bed. There’s room for two small backpacks so it really was roomier than we expected. The shared bathroom is average at best, there was has only two showers with stools and the typical hot tub with capacity for two people.

We slept quite well, I would dare to say that we have felt more overwhelmed and claustrophobic in some EasyHotels (post in Spanish) ^_^  So the next day, well rested, we headed to Osaka (post in Spanish).

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