Gangara Himatsuri – Ikeda Fire Festival
As summer nears its end, so too does the hustle and bustle of the seasons festivals. And although I’m quite happy to bid cicadas adieu, I felt a bit sad heading to our last festival of summer. The Gangara Himatsuri is an annual summer event held in Ikeda City on August 24th. Similar to Gozan no Okuribi in Kyoto, Gangara Himatsuri is a torching ceremony. Taking place at Mt. Satsuki’s Atago Shrine the words 大(dai) and 大一(dai-ichi) are lit on the south and west sides of the mountain. The 大 stands for Heaven and 一 stands for Earth. On the same night, two gigantic hay rods 4 meters long and weighing a staggering 100 kilograms are set alight and hauled around the city to usher in the autumn season.
Our initial plan was to go to Atago Shrine to watch the rods being lit and follow them down to the city, after which, we planned to check out the dai and dai-ichi on the mountainside. We arrived at Ikeda station, the nearest for viewing Gangara Himatsuri, at around six thirty and started walking towards Mt. Satsuki. We were surprised at how few people were walking around the station or around Mt. Satsuki (definitely not the swarms that you find at fireworks). We later found out that the best place to view the rods was near the Ikeda City Ward Office but we decided to stay put and ended up watching from a residential area at the foot of the mountain. The festival started at around 7pm with a gong ringing procession through the town. This was a very peaceful start to what soon became a pretty intense experience. Just look at that fire!
The fire show ended after 25 minutes and we left on our journey to find the dai and dai-ichi on the mountain. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us the fire rods are the main attraction of this festival and the dai and dai-ichi are not given much of the spotlight so we had a bit of a trouble even finding a good viewing spot. After asking a few of the festival guards, all of which seemed a bit confused on where to go, we made our way to the bridge and were just able to make-out the glow of the word dai-ichi in the distance.
Next year, we plan to find a spot to watch near the city ward office.
5 stops from Hankyu Umeda Station. (Takarazuka bound Hankyu Line)
Good To Know
There aren’t any public bathrooms on the way to the mountain, so it is advised to use the one at the station.
Bring or buy water/sports drinks at or near the station because you will be walking for about 15 to 20 minutes. Of course there are vending machines along the way but not many.
There are food stalls near the station, but not a lot of choices.