The Great Bonfire of Toba

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One of the most extraordinary festivals in Japan, Toba Dai Kagaribi (The Great Bonfire of Toba) is a designated National Intangible Folk Cultural Property with roots that can be traced back 1,200 years. The purpose of the festival, which takes place in February at the shrine of Toba Shinmeisha near the city of Nishio in the Chūbu region of Honshū, is to forecast the weather and harvest of the coming year by way of a highly ritualised and potentially dangerous competition between two teams of local men – one from the east side of the Toba River and one from the west. The east is known as Kanchi or “Dry Land” and the west is known as Fukuchi or “Prosperous Land”.

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