Otherwise known as: Shit’s on Fire, Yo.
Anyway! Toby and I rendezvous’ed at the big map at the entrance to the main shrine at 4:30. We were both tired and sore and cold and wet as it had been raining chilly rain off and on all day, so we found a cafe that served tea and little cakes shaped like maple leaves. I got one that was warm and stuffed with a sweetened bean paste while Toby got a cold one that was stuffed with chocolate cream, and we sat there for as long as we could without angering the staff. After that, we wandered out through the sanded path towards the shrine.
When we got near the place where you paid an entrance fee, we noticed that someone had painted two lines on the ground, and that firefighters were starting to reel out two ropes along the lines. Surmising that we now had front-row spots for the ceremony, or at least the running-wth-flaming-torches part, we decided to stay. Aaaand we stood there, along with an ever-increasing number of spectators, for over an hour. Eventually the firefighters ranged themselves along the painted lines holding the rope, and shortly after that a priest from the shrine walked back and forth down the path shouting something through a megaphone.
Then the various crews brought their unlit torches from the direction of the town towards the shrine.
Straining our eyes and looking to the right, we eventually saw the light from flames leaping reflecting off of trees and other things, and shortly after that, the crews started jogging back and forth along the path marked by firefighters, torches blazing.
They’d get to one end of the track, set the torch upright, then let it back down again and jog back the way they came.
Spectators had brought their own small torches, and lit them from various fires set around the place, or from each other. I don’t know how anyone wasn’t set on fire during all of this, because it was pretty crowded. I imagine it’s normally even more crowded, but probably wasn’t as well-attended as usual due to the weather. The firefighters alton took up the ropes by this point, even though the crews were still jogging back and forth with flaming torches, and everyone was happily getting in each others’ way. The out-of-focus shots give you the proper impression of how it was at the time.
I took the opportunity to try to get some night shots of the shrine and the torii gate.
We were tired and footsore and decided to head back. Toby wanted some Japanese street food, so we went to one of the stalls selling food and bought a bunch of chicken pieces on a stick and an ear of corn on a stick. The stall holder took both of them and grilled them in front of us, adding seasoning of some sort to them. We got a Coke from a vending machine and shared the chicken and corn. It was delicious.
We walked back through the shopping area, mostly now closed, and I got this last shot to remind us of the deer of Miyajima Island, sheltering from the rain.