Summer Ends With Ikeda's Gangarabi Matsuri Festival

Updated on April 5, 2020
SgtCecil profile image

I am an expat living in Japan. Every day is an adventure and a blessing. Here are some of my most memorable experiences.

The kanji "dai-ichi" or "big one" burning atop of Satsuki Mountain seen from the Inagawa River
The kanji "dai-ichi" or "big one" burning atop of Satsuki Mountain seen from the Inagawa River | Source

One of the Last Summer Festivals in Japan

One of the last summer festivals in Japan is the Gangarabi Matsuri. It honors the god of Satsuki Mountain by setting it on fire. It is held annually on August 24 in Ikeda, near Osaka. Also part of the event are four of the biggest flaming torches you'll ever see being paraded through downtown Ikeda.

The kanji symbols "dai" and "dai-ichi" are lit on two sides of Satsuki Mountain. These symbols are massive, and their sacred flames can be seen for miles. "Dai" is Japanese for "big," and "dai-ichi" translates as "big one."

Gangarabi is short for Gangara Himatsuri, which translates into "Gangara Fire Festival." If you're going, keep up with the torches. They're hot and it'll be crowded, but it's as much fun as you'll have with fire in Japan!

The four torches of the festival
The four torches of the festival | Source

What you see above are the four torches standing upright. As you can see, they are easily twice as tall as the men who carry them, and they weigh as much as 100 kilos each. Although they are cylindrical, they come to a sharp point towards the bottom.

They are dragged and carried upright throughout downtown Ikeda, two by two. The first two torches are leaned against one another and are followed by the next two torches leaning against each other. It's OK if they fall down or are carried horizontally for a few minutes. I saw both happen frequently.

This is all done by men—no women or children or animals. There are no wheels or engines involved either. This is not easy.

Let's get a closer look. Here, the first two torches are leaned up against each other.
Let's get a closer look. Here, the first two torches are leaned up against each other. | Source

Before I even saw the flames, I smelled them. Also, I heard the loud clang of a single bell. A man hit the bell about once per second. He was at the end of the parade and walked at its pace.

As I got closer, the smell was stronger. It was a burning evergreen smell. By this time, the chanting was louder as well. It wasn't religious but rigorous—the crew chanted to keep each other motivated and moving.

By the time I saw the torches, I felt the heat. This was very real. I had to be careful or I could get hurt. Fortunately, there were security guards around the torches and the fire department was nearby as well.

Cool! Let's follow it!

When I decided to follow the torches, I realized I wasn't the only one. There was a parade of spectators. The torches led the way, surrounded by security, followed by the man with the bell, followed by locals and tourists.

This wasn't like any other summer festival. With the people moving together in a single mass, there were no stalls or vendors. Some of the local cafes and restaurants put up a table in front of their entrances but that was it. It was festive but not laid back. It was exciting.

When the torches reached Ikeda City Hall, the men put them down on the street. There was a small speech by an elected official (or maybe he was a local celebrity). Once that was finished, the first pair went off. Then from across the street, a parade of children moved in. Each had his/her own small torch or bell. Once they were following the first pair of torches, the second pair followed them.

This seemed a bit dangerous to me. But as quickly as the children entered the parade, they left for their own route.

But why? And where?

With everything involved, it's easy to ask what this is all about. Why are they doing this? I asked a couple of locals and they told me that this is the way it's been for hundreds of years, since the 1600s.

On August 24, the torches are carried throughout the city, their smoke and light drive away evil. The sacred fires that light Satsuki Mountain serve a similar purpose.

As the torches burned throughout the evening, bits of ash and charred wood fell off. Some of the locals, especially children, collected it. It's for good luck. I'm not sure if this validates the reason for the festival or defeats its purpose but I decided to keep some myself—for further study, of course.

The parade ended at the Atago Shrine, a Shinto shrine at the foot of the mountain. There, a priest was waiting. The fires were put out. Unfortunately, I didn't get close enough to see how: maybe water or sand. He said few prayers, we cheered a bit and it was all over.

By then it was 11pm: time to call it a night.

The final prayers of the priest
The final prayers of the priest | Source

Would you go to Ikeda's Gangarabi Matsuri

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Cecil Kenmill

    What do you think? - Does this sound fun to you?

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • TransplantedSoul profile image


        7 years ago

        I love your lenses featuring Japanese culture.

      • flinnie lm profile image

        Gloria Freeman 

        7 years ago from Alabama USA

        Yes, sound like fun to me. Great way to end the summer.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Very interesting event. Superb lens!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Fascinating. I'd never heard of it before.

      • casquid profile image


        7 years ago

        Can I really?

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        I love how you take us right along beside you as you describe your sensory experiences of Ikeda's Gangarabi Matsuri, what a way to end a summer!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        This is a unique festival. Congrats on being featured on the Squidoo front page.

      • Elyn MacInnis profile image

        Elyn MacInnis 

        7 years ago from Shanghai, China

        Sounds fabulous. I want to go!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Sounds like fun! I have always liked playing with fire.

      • Tom Maybrier profile image

        Tom Maybrier 

        7 years ago

        What a wonderful lens! It sounds like a great time to me, I hope I get to attend someday.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Sounds like a lot of fun! Congratulations on making Popular Pages - Featured Lenses.

      • SheilaMilne profile image


        7 years ago from Kent, UK

        Fascinating. I'd never heard of it before.

      • LaurenIM profile image


        7 years ago

        I didn't know they had this Gangarabi Matsuri festival. Nice, great pictures brings back memories from my trip.

      • VspaBotanicals profile image


        7 years ago

        Yes, it dows sound like fun. Great lens!

      • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

        BillyPilgrim LM 

        7 years ago

        It looks amazing, would love to visit one day!x

      • thememorybooksh1 profile image


        7 years ago

        Japan is far from my location but i want to visit japan... hope that day will come soon, nice lens.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        I really wanted to visit Japan, this really sounds fun.

      • Michey LM profile image

        Michey LM 

        7 years ago

        very i formative, it is all new to me. Blessings!

      • Ardyn25 profile image


        7 years ago

        It sounds like fun to me...I like learning about the festivals and beliefs of other cultures, whether it makes sense to me or not.

      • Rosaquid profile image


        7 years ago

        Not fun for me, but I am glad to learn about it. I had never heard of it.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)