20th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Travel
Divine Tree

Every year on the second Sunday of February, the Toba Fire Festival is held at the Toba Shinmeisha Shrine in Nishio City, Japan. This fire festival is said to have a history dating back 1,200 years. On the day of the festival, a large torch made of bamboo and thatch called suzumi, about 15 feet high, is lit within the grounds of the shrine. Teams of men representing the western and eastern parts of the town of Toba jump into the blazing fire again and again. They take out the sacred tree and twelve ropes from the suzumi and dedicate them to the gods. In the festival, people divine the weather conditions and fertility of the year based on the burning of the suzumi. The winner of the year is determined by which of the two areas is taken out first. It is a spectacular sight to see the costumed participants jump into the flames one after another and shake the suzumi violently.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 02.2019
Date Uploaded: 11.2022
Photo Location: Nishio City, Japan
Copyright: © Hidetoshi Ogata