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When entering the grounds of a Shinto shrine in Japan, it’s customary to first stop by the water basin near the gate and rinse your hands, and sometimes your mouth, in order to cleanse them. Water isn’t the only classical element held to have purifying properties in Shintoism, though, since the same can be said about fire.

Obviously, worshippers aren’t called upon to put fire on their palms or inside their mouths. Instead, Shinto priests light pyres of charms and decorations during the Dondo Yaki ceremony, with the towering blazes regularly reaching 15 meters (49.2 feet) into the air.

The exact date varies from shrine to shrine, but most hold their Dondo Yaki ceremonies around January 15. The name is a truncated and slightly rearranged version of the Japanese phrase “Don don moeru,” or “It’s really burning.”

▼ We’d say that’s an appropriate description.

Since most Japanese companies and schools start back up on January 4, waiting until January 15 gives people plenty of time to take down their New Year’s decorations, such as the wreath-like ropes called shime nawa.

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If you’re headed to a Dondo Yaki ceremony, though, there’s no need to worry about boxing them up and sticking them back in the closet for another year. Instead, just hand it off to be tossed onto the pile, sit back, and watch it burn.

Given the nature of the event, obviously it’s held outdoors. Being exposed to the elements means sometimes having to contend with strong winds, as Twitter user Imuka says this pyre was twice as tall before the gusts picked up.

The dramatic effect is amplified at nighttime festivities, where attendees are silhouetted against the flickering flames.

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Some communities toss their daruma, one-eyed wish granting good luck charms, into the fire. In Gunma Prefecture’s Takasaki, they’re even wrapped around the scaffolding itself.

If you’re the kind of person who can’t see a bonfire without thinking barbeque, you’ll be happy to know that the festivities often close with a little bit of open-air cooking. It’s said that eating mochi dumplings called mayu dama will help ward off colds during the year, and many people stick theirs on bamboo skewers, pass them through the dying flames for a quick roast, and eat them on the spot.

The mayu dama themselves are incredibly colorful, standing in cute contrast to the wickedly awesome columns of fire.

As a matter of fact they’re so playful-looking that some people shape theirs like popular anime or Disney characters.

▼ We’re always happy to see more Baymax mochi.

And while it may not be the norm, no one’s going to stop you if you decide to throw a handful of mayu dama into your Japanese-style nabe hotpot.

▼ Especially if you make enough to share

Although you might want to limit your generosity by not feeding your friends and family the same mochi you used to make a special collar for your dog, like this one animal lover decided to do.

Still, the above photo is proof that Dondo Yaki has a little something for everyone, whether you’re a devout Shinto believer, student of Japanese culture, seasonal gourmand, or just an ordinary pyromaniac.

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Twitter (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: So-Net, Twitter