Fireball, Tiger Uppercut!

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This is a picture from the famous Fire Festival (hifuri shinji) at Aso Shrine which took place in late March, on a rainy evening. The modest grounds of the temple were crowded past the limits of safety, and the monks handed out bales of hay to anyone wishing to set these on fire and to join in on the melee. No instructions were given, it was more of a "do as you please" atmosphere. The festival transformed the temple grounds into hell with spent straw bails skewed over the premises, burning bright and emitting as much smoke as heat. More and more people spun fireballs, adding to the intensity. Some whirled theirs too close to each other, and cinders shot out as overlapping ellipses came into phase, exploding like the Death Star.

There was one very enthusiastic Japanese girl who loved swinging the fireballs. She swung them in wild trajectories with great enthusiasm, to the horror of people standing 5 feet from her. Usually when others were swinging a bale and the rope burned through, the fireball would quickly fall to the ground and roll maybe a few feet. With this girl, though, the burning bales would arc through the air, as if lobbed by an Olimpiad hammer thrower. Luckily, the first nine times ended without incident, they just scared the bejesus out of anyone close to her. The tenth time, the rope snapped, and the fireball pounded into a guy not 5 feet away from her. Upon impact, the burning hay bursted from the bundle, fully enveloping the cringing man in fire, smoke, and cinders. Luckily for him, the fireball dissipated quickly and he walked away (albeit, with a slight twitch). If I go next year, I know who NOT to stand next to! Thank goodness for the shrine that Japan is not as litigious a society as the good ol? U.S. of A., or else there would be no festivals that I would really want to go to.

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This page contains a single entry by Adam published on September 2, 2003 12:33 AM.

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