A traditional New Year's Eve ritual of Kyoto praying for sound health in the New Year
Okera-Mairi is the name for the visits made to the Okera Matsuri festival from late at night on New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. This ritual is held at Yasaka-jinja Shrine, which is designated as an important cultural property of Kyoto. Okera refers to the medicinal herb Atractylis ovata, which is believed to cast away the evil energy of the past year, and to bless us with longevity. At Yasaka-jinja Shrine on New Year’s Eve, kagaribi watch fires are lit by setting fire to the medicinal herb’s roots and toro lanterns placed in 2 different places in the shrine precincts are lit by this fire.
There is the custom of people taking back some of the embers of this fire to their homes. It is believed that if you use these embers to make a fire at home and prepare zoni – a broth containing vegetables, chicken and mochi rice cakes – which is a representative New Year cuisine served in Japan, or to light the candle of the household altar, you can spend a year in peace.
In order to take this fire home, bamboo ropes are kindled with the herbal root fire and these ropes must be swung around constantly so that the fire will not go out. The numerous red flames burning at the very end of the ropes form a symbolic spectacle of New Year’s Eve in Kyoto.
- [Bus]Close to Gion bus stop.Gion bus stop is about 15 minutes from JR Kyoto Station on City Bus No.206.
- Yasaka-jinja Shrine
- December 31st
- 625, Gionmachi-Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture