Kosuge Mura Festival

A taiko player raises his drumstick to the sky as the bonfire flames lick higher.

Taiko player and bonfire

This is my favourite photograph from this weekend’s Kosuge Mura festival. Like all of the other photos in this post, it was taken by a fellow JET and photography graduate, the talented Kelly Bryan.

I was lucky enough to play a yamabushi – a mountain monk – at the festival. Another JET, Clint Peters, was taking part along with 8 locals and managed to get me invited too – thanks Clint! First, we carried big flaming torches down the riverbank, lighting small fires all along both banks:

Me carrying my torch

Then, we each introduced ourselves to the crowd. It was a fantastic feeling to roar out the old Japanese words in a deep, rolling, samurai-style voice. Mine was, roughly translated:
“I am the Irish mountain monk, Dave Cahill. I have come today to give you love.” Yes, just like the Simpsons episode – “I bring you love!”

Anyway, with the introductions over, we set 3 huge bonfires with our torches. Here’s a before and after:

BEFORE (Around 2pm on the day of the festival)

Bonfire - before

AFTER (Around 7pm, i.e. after we went at it with our torches)

Bonfire - after

The heat was like nothing I had ever felt before. The towering flames grew threateningly in the wind, hordes of orange sparks flew through the air, and wave after wave of heat washed over our faces. Standing there in the intense heat of the fire, looking around and smiling at my fellow monks, was definitely a moment to remember.

When the fire died down a little, we waded back across the river to great applause. This is Clint, emerging from the river dripping wet and freezing!

Clint emerges from the river

To finish off the festival, we touched our torches against a pole – at the exact moment we touched the pole, a barrage of fireworks blasted into the sky, capping off another amazing night in Japan.

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