Matsu-age Torch Lightings松上げ

Summary

Torches flying towards a basket of tinder at the Hanase Matsu-age.

A countryside event that highlights some of the traditions in the more rural areas of Japan, the Matsu-age Torch Lighting festivals are held in three outlying villages in Kyoto during the month of August. 

Note: Since the events run late in rural areas, be careful about arranging transport back in to Kyoto City after the end of the Matsu-age.

A view of the Hanase Matsu-age.

08/15 in Hanase

Held annually on August 15th and beginning at approximately 8 pm, the Matsu-age in Hanase is used as a way to send off the dead who return to our world for the Obon period and as a ritual said to ward off fire.  This festival also serves as a prayer for a good harvest.  With a twenty-meter tall torch set by a stream in a field filled with a thousand torches, locals flinging small lit torches against the dark night is a sight to behold!

08/24 in Kumogahata

The burning glow of the fires at the Hirogawa Matsu-age.

08/24 in Hirogawara

The Hirogawara Matsu-age has been carefully preserved by the local people for centuries as a ritual to commemorate local fire deity Atago Daimyojin and pray for good crops and the health of the villagers.

Held annually on August 24th, Hirogawara's Matsu-age begins around 8:30 at night. In order to hold the festival, a log of Japanese cedar is used to construct a tall pillar about 20 meters high with a large torch on the top. Once night falls, a bonfire is started and small torches placed in the surrounding field to create a magical effect. Local men take small bundles of wood attached to lengths of rope, light them in the bonfire, and hurl them up at the torch on top of the pillar, trying to set it alight to the energetic sound of drumming and rallying cheers.

The crowd oohs and aahs along with their efforts until someone manages to catch the torch aflame, and the climax of the festival comes when the whole tree-torch crashes to the ground. The men then use that flame to build a bigger fire, and take turns running in to it with a large stick, lifting it to stoke the flames even higher. As the flames die, the men proceed through the streets and a traditional dance is held to end the night's ritual, returning participants back to their modern lives after this timeless celebration from rural Japan.

Things to See/Do

  • Food Stalls

  • Shinto Ritual

  • Taiko Drums

  • Fire Ritual

Schedule

August 15th: Hanase Matsu-age, 21:00~

August 24th: Kumogahata Matsu-age, 20:00~

August 24th: Hirogawara Matsu-age, 20:30~

Access

Hanase

Address

左京区花脊八桝町

Transportation

  • Kyoto Bus Route 32 ⇒ Hanase Kōryū no Mori-mae Bus Stop

Hirogawara

Address

左京区広河原下之町

Transportation

  • Kyoto Bus Route 32 ⇒ Shimo no Chō Bus Stop