Mt. Mikawa & Mikawa Gongen (shrine of Mikawa avatar)

Mt. Mikawa is a mountain 887.8m in height, where trees of rhododendron and Japanese white pine grow in clusters and there is a primeval forest of beech trees etc. There remain valuable natural environments there, so that this area is popular as a hiking trail. It is said that En no Gyoja, the founder of the mountaineering asceticism, transferred the separate spirit of Zao Gongen to this place in 674 to establish Mikawa Gongen at the foot of Mt. Mikawa. This shrine has an osuna fumiba: a place for stepping on sands from 188 kannon temples in Japan so that worshippers can visit all of those temples at once by stepping on the sands. The shrine holds its main festival “Mikawa Gongen Festival” every year on May 3 to invite spring. This festival attracts mountain ascetics and priests from all over Japan. “Saito ogoma hoyo,” a holy fire service to burn away earthly desires with fire of wisdom, is one of the highlights of the festival. In this service, mountain ascetics show up, bravely blowing a conch shell horn to shoot arrows in four directions in the shrine grounds to create sacred barriers and then set on fire goma (wood sticks) piled up at the center to heights of over 1m. The flame and smoke from there are overwhelming. To see this holy fire service, many worshippers gather there even from outside the town. They draw the smoke around themselves with hands, hoping the safety of their families and accomplishment of wishes.