Saiganden-ji Temple – Fire walking festival (Asosan Kannon Matsuri)

Recently I visited the Saiganden-ji temple, a short walk from Michi no Eki Aso, to watch and take part in the fire walking festival (Asosan Kannon Matsuri).

The festival takes place on the 13th of April every year and is truly a special experience if you happen to be visiting Aso at this time.

Said to be one of the oldest temples in Kyushu, Saiganden-ji was founded in 726 AD. Initially being based around the crater, the temple burnt down and was eventually rebuilt at the bottom of Mt. Aso in the 16th century.

I arrived to the magical sounds of the monks chanting at the base of the temple stairs.


While chanting, the monks ascended the time worn steps up to the top of the temple area to continue their ritual.


After some time at the top, the monks remerged once again to descend the steps back to the base area setup for the festival fire.


Once at the staging area, the monks continued to chant and blow horns whilst using a variety of different ceremonial weapons. An archer fired arrows into the crowd slowly as watchers scrambled to catch them for good fortune and luck.

Whilst there were a large amount of people gathered for the event, the atmosphere was very calm and serene.


Following shortly after, the monks began lighting torches in order to start the fire that we would all get to walk through towards the end of the ceremony.


At first thick smoke bellowed out but was soon replaced by a raging fire that warmed the entire area. A smaller fire was also lit under a large bowl of water, leaving me wondering its purpose.

Wishes written on wooden panels by attendees were also thrown into fire to secure their hopes and dreams.


After some time had passed the wooden container surrounding the fire collapsed to ash and the monks began preparing the pathway for the much anticipated fire walk.

Whilst the fire was still burning, the monks walked bare footed one by one across the burning wood and hot ashes.


Numerous crossings were made before the fire was extinguished, leaving just the hot ashes remaining. Attendees were then invited to remove their shoes and socks and receive a blessing before making the walk across.


As this was my first time I was eager to try the walk despite being a little apprehensive of the heat. Luckily it did not feel that hot at all and it was surprisingly comfortable walking through the ashes.

After crossing we were given 2 charms and Japanese rice cake (mochi) in a small bag with a 5 yen coin. There was also a place to wash your feet from the ashes before preparing for the final ritual in the ceremony.

The final ritual involved using branches and leaves dipped in the boiling water bowl mentioned earlier to then fling at attendees in order to bring good health.

Feeling a little bit singled out, I was completely showered with boiling water and while being quite uncomfortable, I just concentrated on all the good health it would bring.

From start to finish, the festival lasted around 3 hours and there were many food and goods vendors situated around the main staging area including the sale of charms and talismans.

It was a very unique experience and I would recommend visiting and taking part if you get the chance. The temple is also a great place to visit on any day outside the festival time as it really is a peaceful location with a great view back in time .

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experiences and I hope to see you in Aso someday soon.


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