The Kebesu Festival is a major fall festival held at Iwakura Shrine each year. At this unusual festival, participants are liberally subjected to the sparks from leaping flames. Shrine guardians clad in white playfully chase onlookers with boughs of burning leaves. The shrieks of women and children alike echo across the night sky, bringing the festival to its peak of excitement. The glint of the sacred flames lights up onlookers’ faces as they gaze in awe at these subtly enchanting proceedings. It is said that those upon whom a spark alights will enjoy sound health for years to come. There are no records of the festival’s origin nor on the etymology of the strange word “Kebesu” — everything about this rite remains a mystery.


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