Friday, July 23, 2010

Holy fire festival!

When one of our tea growers in Aso took me to the fire festival (Hifuri Matsuri) at Aso Shrine — which was walking distance from his tea estate — I thought I had stepped into another world . . . a world where people swing burning bales of hay around them to the oohs and aahs of an awestruck throng of visitors.

What's really cool is that anyone can pick up one of the burning bales and start swinging away.

The festival began as — and still is — a ritual to welcome the "bride" of the new harvest. Taking place right around rice-planting time, which is also when tea plants enter their season of rapid growth, the festival is a community prayer for a good harvest and a gesture of gratitude for nature's bounty.

As we walked back to the grower's tea estate, I left with a renewed appreciation not only for the bounty of nature, but also for traditions through which a community publicly expresses its gratitude for this bounty.

—Mellow Monk


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