Every October 24, on top of Mt Komagatake in Hakone, the Goshinkasai Motomiya Reisai festival takes place. It is an important festival for the Hakone shrine and it consists of lighting a fire of which burning coals will be distributed to all related shrines in the area.
This year, the top of Mt Komagatake was covered in clouds which gave a special feel to this matsuri. In the photo to the right, two Shinto priests are using a bow drill to light a fire while two others are trying to keep them out of the strong winds. Once the torch was lit, the Guuji (head priest) of the shrine brought it to the pyre and light it. The ceremony continued with a miko dance and offerings of sasaki branches and prayers. By this time the pyre was ablaze and the priests circled the fire clockwise and anti-clockwise after which some coals were collected in a special box and brought to the nearby shrine.
The ceremony had taken place in some ancient ruins of what once had been a much larger shrine. Once this part of the ceremony was finished, we walked over to the tiny Hakone Shrine Motomiya (“original shrine”) and got in for the second part of the ceremony. The shrine was packed but I was happy to stand in the back and bowed when everybody else bowed and clapped my hands twice when everybody else clapped their hands twice. Before the start of the ceremony outside, we each had made a donation to the shrine for which we had received tickets in return. Once the ceremony inside the shrine was finished, this ticket gave us a naorai, a thank-you gift from the shrine with an Ofuda, a nice bentō, some sake and katsuobushi shavings.
Access to Mt Komagatake
Access to the top of Mt Komagatake is via the Komagatake rope-way which is not covered by the Hakone Freepass, but the freepass gives you a small discount on the price of a round trip ticket. Inexplicably, there is no bus connection from Hakone or Motohakone to the Komagatake rope-way station which probably explains the few non-Japanese at the matsuri. Although the rope-way is only a little over three quarters of an hour walk from Motohakone, about 2km lead over a treacherous and dangerous road with many curves and no space to walk on either side. It is probably best to take a taxi to the rope-way station.
The Guuji offers a branch of a sasaki shrub to the kami. The altar already contains many other gifts of fruits, fish and sake.
The pyre ablaze