Fire festivals in Moriyama

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Katsube Shrine (勝部神社) and Sumiyoshi Shrine (住吉神社) in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture will hold their annual Hi-matsuri fire festivals (火まつり) on the evening of Jan. 14, 2012. Saturday.

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.

Unfortunately, you cannot see the festival at both shrines since they are held around the same time. Katsube Shrine’s fire festival is bigger with more torches, twelve of them. While Sumiyoshi Shrine’s fire festival is smaller with only six torches which represent the head of the slain dragon.

And remember, this is the year of the dragon, so the festival might be more special this year.

Both shrines are a short walk from JR Moriyama Station. Katsube Shrine is easy to find on the west side of the train station and Sumiyoshi Shrine is on the east side. Map here.

More photos of Katsube Shrine Fire Festival here.

Giant torches at Sumiyoshi Shrine for the Fire Festival. Click on image to see more photos.

Mayors of Otsu, Hikone, Moriyama, Ritto, Omi-Hachiman oppose Governor Kada’s reelection

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.

More spring festivals in Shiga

During this rainy season, I’m staying at home to sort through the thousands of photos I took in Shiga during spring. Here are a few more festivals in Shiga which I photographed during spring.

Sanno Matsuri held by Hiyoshi Taisha in Otsu (Part 1 and 2):
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Sanno Matsuri photos: Sanno-sai Festival 山王祭

Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri is a festival of floats paraded during April 19-20:
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Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri photos here.

Kenketo Matsuri in Ryuo (Photos here):
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Naginata Odori in Moriyama (Photos here):
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Taga Matsuri (Photos here):
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I have more spring festivals to show and a full update will be posted soon on my home page (

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