The twin fire festivals are related to each other and held at the same time. You can only see one of them, but I recommend Katsube Shrine’s fire festival because they burn more torches.
The festival starts with a Shinto ceremony at the shrine at 6 pm. Then they march around the neighborhood while beating a taiko drum. You can see the giant torches made of straw at the shrine. The climax is when they light the giant torches at 8:30 pm. These half naked men then dance around in front of the fire. The torches are doused with kerosene so they light up and burn out very quickly. It gets very hot so don’t go too close.
According to one legend, 800 years ago during the Kamakura Period, Emperor Tsuchimikado (土御門天皇) fell ill and a fortune-teller said that a monster dragon-serpent (orochi 大蛇) living in a marsh in present-day Moriyama was to blame. When the dragon was finally slain and burned by hunters sent by the Emperor, the body fell on Katsube Shrine and the head fell on Sumiyoshi Shrine. The young men danced wildly around the burning dragon and the Emperor recovered. That’s how the festival supposedly started.
Five city mayors in Shiga Prefecture have formed a mayor’s association (市長有志の会) to oppose the reelection of Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko and to support the election of rival candidate Ueno Ken’ichiro.
Otsu Mayor Mekata Makoto (目片信), Omi-Hachiman Mayor Fujitani Eisho (冨士谷英正), Hikone Mayor Shishiyama Koyo (獅山 向洋), Moriyama Mayor Yamada Nobuhiro (山田亘宏), and Ritto Mayor Kunimatsu Shoichi (國松 正一) belong to the association. They prodded Shiga’s other mayors to join up, but they apparently declined. Most are well-aware of Kada’s popularity among Shiga voters and some think that mayors should not get involved in gubernatorial campaigns.
At least two of these opposing mayors do have an ax to grind as Kada opposed or canceled major public works projects in Ritto (shinkansen station) and Hikone (dam construction) during her first term.
Frankly, I thought it was foolish to oppose such a popular governor. It only makes these mayors look childish, putting on a temper tantrum. Fortunately, they are a minority. We now know which mayors cannot work well with the governor. I wouldn’t want to vote for a mayor who cannot work with the governor. Shiga really needs everyone to work together.