Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hot, hot, hot, or not, not, not?: Firewalking in Miyajima

When I was invited by friends to go firewalking Nov. 3, my first thought was, "um, no, I avoid pain whenever I can. But, thanks for thinking of me!"

But then the adventurer in me smacked my first thought on the back of the head and said, "Bucket list item! You don't want to miss this!"

Fine, fine... Walking on fire... OK, let's do this!

Miyajima is considered one of the most beautiful places in Japan. It is, of course, famous of this torii gate that, when the tide is high, appears to be "floating." When the photo below was taken, it was low tide and it appears to be seaweed season. I don't reme,ber ever seeing the ground so green. Miyajima also has a a few Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, each one with its own annual events. Firewalking on Nov. 3 is one of them.

As we walked away from the torii gate and toward the shrines, there was a huge cloud of smoke in the not-to-distant distance. It looks like the fire was going to be pretty big.

Despite the huge plume of smoke, we were still a little early for the peak of the fire walking ritual, so we headed over to Momijidani Park, famous for its maple trees, which turn gorgeous colors in the fall. The leaves were just starting to turn. We gazed around for a few minutes, but then had to take off... we had fire walking to do!

We arrived at the temple a little after 2 p.m., which was the perfect time to catch the fire walking highlights. The Miyajima website explains the event, but, since everything dring the ceremony itself was in Japanese, I am not sure what the play-by-play was as far as what was being said, chanted or sung. There was a drummer and a horn blower, but that was the extent of the instrument accompaniment. So, here are some of the more interesting pictures I took of the ceremony. I wish I could explain what was going on, but I can't, so, I'll let these photos speak for themselves.

The guy "hopping" through the fire made me nervous... if he was having trouble with this, then I definitely was going to have issues. Big girl pants on! I will NOT back out.

So then it was time for the general public to take of their shoes, roll up their pants and give it a go. Anyone could do it for 1,000 yen. With that 1,000 yen (about $10) you got a red and white prayer stick. You'll see them being carried. People of all ages participated from the very old, being assisted by the very friendly clergy, and the very young, some of them not even old enough to walk yet. The devoted parents gently set their toddlers' feet in the ashes for a moment and then walked across the entire pit, carrying the youngsters.

After watching the faces of people like the ones below, I got more and more nervous, but everyone seemingly came out the other side without a problem. I didn't even see an ambulance waiting at the ready.

But, still... there are OPEN FLAMES and SMOKE. I tried to psych myself up for what I was about to do... The main thought that went through my head: Being a Southern California girl, I have walked across incredibly hot beach sand on numerous occasions. And my blanket was wayyyy farther away from the shore than the two ends of the pit were. I can do this! Seriously, I had to talk myself through this rationally. Although, is there anything rational about walking on fire? Yes: only if that's the one way to get out of an inferno. If that is not the case, this is fairly irrational behavior. Time to get my irrationalness (irrationality?) on!

But first, the clergy had to do another quick ritual... or maybe he was making sure the coals weren't too hot. I don't know. He walked over it a couple more times in between groups of people.

And then it was my turn. Yep... my turn. And just to warn you now... there is a spoiler... so stop reading if you don't want anything... spoiled. You will not miss anything important, other than the spoiler. If you plan to fire walk, I recommend not reading the spoiler.

I'm smiling in the photos above (thanks, Hyla!) because I'm kind of laughing at myself. The coals were luke warm at best. Not even like hot concrete, definitely no where near hot sand or asphalt. The roughest part was walking on wood chips... my feet tend to be sensitive. It was a bit disappointing after all the anxiety I had felt about possibly burning my feet, and I was laughing at how nervous I had been. But, I can officially say I have fire walked Japanese style. Bucket list item checked off.


Vader's Mom said...

That sounds amazing!! What a fun experience to have - I may have to come back next time to hit this event.

Jessica Guthrie said...

Absolutely... November is a beautiful month in Japan, with all the leaves changing and everything.