Men called noboriko—more than 1,500 of them—run down the 538 stone steps of the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine during the Oto Fire Festival in Shingu, Wakayama, Japan, to celebrate the end of winter. (2020) Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
When temperatures drop, there is one guaranteed way to keep warm outside: fire. Stoking a campfire or backyard pit is one way. Torching an entire viking ship or an effigy of the devil—well, that’s an option, too. Such flaming rituals have been used throughout history and are still an annual fixture in many communities today. Around the world now, there are festivals involving bonfires, torches, candles, and more to mark a special time of year, drive away unwelcome spirits, or greet the new year with a fiery rebirth. Japan, in particular, celebrates with multiple fire festivals, some up to 1,500 years old.
Atlas Obscura invites you to check out some of these particularly photogenic spectacles.
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