Getting married or having a kid? Then into the flames you go!

Japanese festivals are usually fun, lively events. Often there’s a procession of portable shrines, called mikoshi, that are carried around town and jostled about to stimulate the gods of fortune inside. Other times there might be a vigorous taiko drum performance.

And then there’s the festival in Japan where they toss dudes into a blazing fire.

The event, called Dondoyaki, takes place in the Godo neighborhood of town of Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture (which borders the south side of Tokyo). Locals gather a pile of shimenawa (ropes used in Shinto ceremonies and shrines) and daruma (circular dolls used for making wishes), light the pile on fire, and then representatives from the Godo Youth Organization start throwing young men into the blaze.

▼ Video of Godo’s 2018 Dondoyaki

Not just anyone can get chucked into the blaze, though. Instead, the honor is reserved for young men who’ll be having some auspicious life development during the year, such as getting married or welcoming a new baby to their family. It might seem cruelly ironic that it’s the men who’re about to form lifelong interpersonal connections, and take on the responsibilities that come with them, who are thrown into a potentially deadly fire, but it’s thought that the Dondoyaki ritual wards off any evil spirits or energy that may be swirling about the young man, clearing away any sch impediments to an auspicious future.

▼ Godo Dondoyaki 2020

The person being thrown into the fire, as well as those doing the tossing, are dressed in thick clothing to prevent burns, and often have the lower half of their face covered by a towel. Representatives of the local fire department also attend the ceremony.

On most years, roughly half a dozen people are tossed into the fire, and none of this year’s five participants reported any injuries. “Honestly, I was scared,” said a 33-year-old man who was tossed into this year’s fire and is planning to get married soon, “but I wished for the happiness of the local community.”

It’s worth noting that Godo isn’t the only place in Kanagawa where Dondoyaki takes place. However, in other communities it’s basically a community mochi roasting event, with dumplings not people, being placed in the flames.

▼ Godo’s Dondoyaki does have dumplings too, however.

No one’s exactly sure why Godo does Dondoyaki the way it does, however. The reasons for its uniqueness have been lost to the mists of time, but it’s a local tradition that’s set to continue, evem if it’s unlikely to catch on in other parts of Japan.

Sources: Livedoor News/Kanaroko via Jin, J Town Net
Featured image: Twitter/@kanagawa_museum
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