To be honest, I had never even heard of the Kurama Fire Festival when I booked my ticket to Japan. So it was a pleasant surprise to find out that I was going to be at the right place, at the right time. I guess I felt like I was meant to experience it.
After a lunch of buger (see last post), I took a train at Demachiyanagi Station and headed to Mount Kurama in the northern outskirts of Kyoto. The train on this line is a lot smaller because not a lot of people go to this part of Kyoto. Unless of course, it happens to be the day of the festival.
Prior to the trip, I’ve read horror stories of people waiting for trains until the wee hours of the morning, hoping to get a ride back to their hotels in Kyoto. These stories are true. Kurama is a tiny town that overflows with tourists on this day and catching a train home can really test your patience. If you are impatient and cannot stand inconvenience, this festival is not for you. But if you can stay calm while standing for a long period of time, you will experience something extraordinary. It is all worth it.
When I arrived in Kurama, a large crowd already filled the street. People reserved their spots along the path of the torch bearers and it looked like they were prepared to wait for hours. There were blocks of wood along the street, waiting to be lit up. But what really awed me were the gigantic taimatsu or pine torches. Seeing them made me feel I was really about to experience something incredible. I couldn’t wait for them to light up the torches.
Unfortunately the rains that forced the Jidai Matsuri to be postponed arrived. And now it threatened to take away the Kurama Fire Festival too. As the rain poured, I stood under the eaves of a small restaurant for around two hours. I was packed there like sardines with the other tourists. No one knew if we were going to see some fires. It was going to be a long night.