festival festival
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Nozawa Fire Festival, Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri

Fierce fights among men who ask sacred fires to drive evil spirits out! One of the rarest and strangest festivals in Japan, Dosojin Matsuri is a traditional festival since time immemorial here in Nozawa Onsen Village.
(炎に厄祓いを託した男と男のぶつかり合い!野沢温泉村で大昔より伝わる日本有数の奇祭「道祖神祭り」。

Worshiped at an intersection, a “dosojin” is a village guardian deity to protect a village from evil and to promote descendants’ prosperity. There had been two dosojin spots for fire festivals along the road in Nozawa Onsen Village, but they were moved and united at a remote place in 1912 to prevent fires during the festival.
The blessings of dosojin vary according to places, and the Nozawa Onsen Village dosojin are worshiped mainly for protecting one from evil and for finding a good marriage match. It is customary for men at certain ages of ‘yaku’, or bad luck, to join the festival.
(道祖神は、厄難侵入防止や子孫繁栄を祈願する村の守り神として主に道の辻に祀られ、野沢温泉の道祖神は2ヶ所ありましたが、大正元年に火災予防のために人家から離れた場所にて祭りをするようになりました。道祖神のご利益は全国によって異なりますが、野沢温泉では厄難祓い、良縁祈願を主な祈願とし、祭りの執り行う者が厄年の人となります。)

Dosojin Matsuri

On January 13 every year, the sacred trees are brought to build the shrine on January 14. Around 20:00 on January 15, the fight begins between two teams, one to defend the shrine which has a height of 20 meters and the other to try to set fire to it. The fierce battle continues for about 90 minutes, before it is ended with a hand-clapping ceremony and the shrine is set on fire. Spectators and participants alike watching the fiercely burning wild fire until the festival finishes at 23:00. Participants are strictly limited to men who are of unlucky ages, and if any others get caught up in the excitement and try to participate, they are dropped into the river to cool their heads down.
(毎年1/13にご神木を引き、1/14日に社殿を組み立て、1/15日の20:00頃から高さ20mの社殿を守る側と火をつけようとする側との激しい攻防戦が約90分程繰り広げられ、やがて双方の手締めにより社殿に火が入れられます。激しく燃える社殿の火を眺め23:00に終了となりますが、参加者は地元の厄年の者に限られ、興奮した他者が戦いの中に参加した場合には川に落とされ頭を冷やすことになります。)


Most dosojin throughout Nozawa Onsen Village are wooden and pairs of male and female deities.

Nozawa Fire Festival

Most dosojin throughout Nozawa Onsen Village are wooden and pairs of male and female deities.It is believed they bring prosperity to descendants, standing as gods of marriage and fertility. This belief springs from a story that once an ugly man and woman married and had a baby boy.

The burned down shrine remains on fire until the next morning. Eating mochi rice cakes grilled on the remaining fire is said to keep you healthy and prevent colds throughout the year. What makes Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival so unique is that the fight risks lives of the people who join the festival as well as spectators. Even if you do not take part in the festival, you should be prepared for the risks just in being.
(野沢温泉の至る所で見受けられるのが男女一体の木造道祖神です、子孫繁栄の神としての信仰があり、その由縁は容姿が見苦しい男女の神が結ばれ男子が出生したと言う、縁結びと子宝神として信仰されています。燃え落ちた社殿は翌朝まで燃え残り、残り火で餅を焼いて食べると風邪をひかず1年過ごせると言われています。野沢温泉の道祖神祭りが奇祭と言われる所以は、攻防戦が命がけであり、観ている人にもそれなりの覚悟が必要である事です。)

The fire festival is about the fierce battle between the villagers who try to set fire to the shrine and the men at ‘yaku’ ages who protect it from the fire. Both offenders and defenders knock each other down with fired torches and pine sticks. A serious battle for life unfolds in front of the spectators in showers of falling fire sparks. This is a traditional event that everyone born in this village passes through. The fateful ceremony creates unity and tightens the bonds of the old and the young. Participation in the event is confers recognition as a man who can protect the village. Village men whose ages are the inauspicious years of 42 and 25 take the festival’s main role. The temporary shrine only for the festival is built over two days before the event. Men aged 42 stand on the top of the shrine while the 25-year olds at the bottom strongly guard it as firemen, trying to prevent the attacks of other villagers.
火祭りの内容は、火を付けようとする村人と、それを防ごうとする厄年の男衆が激しい攻防戦を繰り広げる様です。火がついた松明や松の枝で互いにバシバシと叩き合う姿は、本気の喧嘩、飛び交う火の粉の中、まさに命がけの戦いが目の前で展開されます。村の男として生まれたからには誰もが通らなければならない伝統行事。参加必須の宿命ともいえる儀式で、連帯感と上下関係の結束を固くし、村を守る男としてやっと一人前として認められる儀式です。祭りの主役は42歳と25歳の本厄にあたる村の男衆。祭りの前日から2日間かけてつくられた社殿の上に42歳の男衆が上がり、その下で25歳の厄男たちが立ちふさがって、火消し役として村人からの攻撃を阻止します。


Requests of foreign tourists(外国人観光客の皆様へのお願い)

■Please remember that the treat of sake in Japan, called ‘furumai-zake,’ is something special for celebration; this is not for getting drunk, but for celebrating.
(日本での振舞酒は、祝儀などの際に、人に振る舞う酒であり酔う事より祝う事です。)

■Bringing alcohol into the festival site is prohibited. This is a place for the festivity, not for drinking.
(お酒の持ち込みは、禁止です。お祭りですが自分で持ち込む場所ではありません)

■Use only designated areas as a toilet.
(トイレは、決められた場所でお願いします。)

■This is a religious rite, and participation is strictly limited to the villagers. You must follow manners as an observer, and are NOT allowed to join the battle.
(祭事事ですので観客としての観る姿勢を忘れず、参加はできません。祭りは地元の村民に限られた祭りです。)

■This is not a place to pick up girls. Please remember that what is unfolding in front of you is a religious ritual.
(女性を口説いたりする場所でもありません、神の祭りの前である事を思い出してください。)

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