Mysterious trip of water and fire

April 13, 2005

by Akiko Nakai; Mami Nishiyama


Water And Fire ~Take A Mysterious Kyoto Tour~

1. Kibune (Kifune) Shrine ~ The Power of Water~

Do you have someone special you want to get closer to? Do you want to keep healthy during your life? If so, how about making a start here in traditional Kyoto? Kibune Shrine, which is also called Kifune Shrine, is one of the best places to make your wishes come true.

▼ What’s Kibune Shrine?

Surrounded by a deep cedar forest and the murmur of a stream, Kibune Shrine is located in the northeast of Kyoto city. The exact year of its establishment is unknown, but it is more than 1600 years old. An ancient myth states that a goddess reached Kibune on a boat in search for a water source. Kibune Shrine was built on the very same spot as where she found an abundant spring. As a result, Okami-no-Kami, The God of Water, was deified in Kibune Shrine. Today, you still can see the stones that cover the goddess’s boat in the shrine.

 ▼ The Blessing

Ancient people believed that all wishes on earth could come true through the power of the God of Water. Izumi Shikibu, a female poet of the Heian period (794-1192 AD), knew of the beneficial effects of Kibune Shrine, so one day she visited there and prayed in order to regain her husband’s love. Knowledge of her success in romance spread dramatically around Japan, and since then the shrine has become known especially as the God of Marriage. Today, Kibune Shrine continues to attract a lot of couples; also office workers pray for good relationship between companies.

Izumi Shikibu in the Heian Period

Girls praying in the present

Water fortune telling

▼ The Sacred Water ~ Lourdes of Japan?

The water which springs up in the shrine is called Goshinsui. (Sacred Water). The soft, weak alkaline water has been loved since ancient times by poets, tea ceremony masters, or those who seek good health. Surprisingly, the water doesn’t go bad for three days after it’s collected, and germ reproduction is amazingly low. From this point, some Japanese call Goshinsui the “Lourdes of Japan.” Why not give it a try?

▼Fortune telling ~The power of water~

In this shrine, you don’t want to miss the Mizuura-Mikuji, a unique type of fortune telling that you can try only here.

The meaning of the fortune (from left to right, top to bottom) In the circle: Suekichi…The 5th rank of good luck
(Daikichi-Chukichi-Shokichi-Kichi-Suekichi-Kyou)

Lucky Direction South
Health Take care of yourself slowly
Childbirth Easy delivery
Romance People around you will bring a good chance to meet people
Wishes Will come true no matter how long it takes
Moving house Take your time to decide
Lost property Will be found somewhere in a high place
Business Increase your stock
Studies Do your best, or you may receive lower grades
Travel Don’t be in a hurry, and be careful at the edge of water

2. Fire Dancing In the Night- The Kurama Fire Festival

If you’d like to see a unique side of Kyoto, why don’t you go to the Kurama Fire Festival? You’ll definitely enjoy an adventure at this exotic festival!

This festival has a long history- in the middle of the 10th century, a commotion and a big earthquake happened in Kyoto. Therefore, the Yuki Myojin (one of the guardian demons of the Imperial Court) was enshrined at Kurama to protect the nothern area of Kyoto from these misfortunes. When the Yuki Myojin came to Kurama, the village people welcomed it by building bonfires; this developed into a festival.

The Youth with big torches

The Kurama Fire Festival is one of the three mysterious festivals in Kyoto (along with the Yasurai Festival and the Cow Festival). Every year on October 22nd this festival starts from 6 p.m. with the starting signal: “Shinji Mairasshare!” (The shrine ritual has come!)

In Kurama there are seven groups of residents, and each group joins the parade from its stronghold. Therefore, the parade becomes longer and longer with time (the longest length is one kilometer). People shoulder big torches and shout: “Sairei, sairyo!” (with hopes that this festival will be the best one). The participants include infants, boys and the youth. The size of the tourches become bigger and bigger as the participants become older and older.

How Exiciting!

This festival ends after midnight. Two miniature shrines are carried  to a rest house for a demon called Otabisho, where the Kurama residents have already made room for the Yuki Myojin. Then, the shrine ritual takes place and the festival is over.

One of the miniature shrines

There are two interesting points. One is that women also participate by pulling the ropes of the miniature shrines; by doing this it is believed that a mother will have an easy delivery. The other is a performance called Tyoppen which is a ceremony for boys who are coming of age.

This festival has been handed down in the village through the seven groups. They prepare for the festival from May, cutting the branches of azalea, and responsibilities are divided among the groups. You can say, therefore, that this festival is by the village people and for them. Therefore, we observers need to follow their instructions and not do selfish actions, even if you become very excited.

Explore Mysterious Kyoto in Kibune and Kurama!


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