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Nachi Fire Festival (那智の扇祭り, Nachi no Ogi Matsuri) or “Nachi Fan Festival” is one of three major fire festivals in Japan. It takes place on the 14 July each year in the Kumano mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, and is centered around Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine. The festival celebrates the return of the deity living in the shrine to the Great Waterfall of Nachi (Nachi no Taki), Japan’s highest waterfall at 133 meters.
The festival is particularly famous for the scenes of 12 enormous pine torches—each of which weighs close to 50 kilograms—being carried from the shrine to the Great Waterfall of Nachi (the waterfall itself is believed to be a deity). These 12 torches represent the spirits of the 12 gods living in the Kumano mountains and are used to purify the path, “burning” away the sins of the past year.
Visitors can also see twelve 6-meter high mikoshi (portable shrines) decorated with ogi fans (hence the festival’s official name) and mirrors, which are placed in front of the shrine to represent the Great Waterfall.