Traditional fire festival mourns castle dead in Sukagawa

November 11, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

SUKAGAWA, Fukushima Prefecture--As the night sky erupted in a sea of flames, festival-goers at one of Japan’s three major fire festivals here on Nov. 10 mourned the victims of a feudal warlord, as they have for more than 400 years.

In light rain, 25 massive poles were set ablaze amid the powerful sounds of “Wadaiko,” or traditional Japanese drums. Then, the burning poles, reaching high into the sky, lit up the night with flames.

The festival, “Taimatsu Akashi” (literally “firebrand flame”), is believed to have started more than four centuries ago to mourn a local feudal lord and other victims of Sukagawa castle. They were killed by troops of Date Masamune (1567-1636), a feudal warlord based in Sendai in the neighboring prefecture of Miyagi.

Last year, event organizers were forced to use thatch and bamboo from other prefectures for the poles as minute amounts of radioactive materials were detected in the materials in Fukushima Prefecture due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

This year, however, the thatch and bamboo emanating from Fukushima Prefecture were used for the festival as their safety was confirmed.

Taimatsu Akashi was held on the eve of the 20-month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred on March 11, 2011.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Massive poles made of thatch and bamboo burn in the “Taimatsu Akashi” festival in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 10. (Takaharu Yagi)

Massive poles made of thatch and bamboo burn in the “Taimatsu Akashi” festival in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 10. (Takaharu Yagi)

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  • Massive poles made of thatch and bamboo burn in the “Taimatsu Akashi” festival in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 10. (Takaharu Yagi)

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