Yesterday (February 3, 2023) there was a goma burning ceremony.

In my hometown, a goma-burning ceremony is held every year on February 3rd.

Every year, a tree trunk is built in front of the shrine, and branches and leaves from a plant (I’ll look up what kind of plant it is) are placed inside. Then a piece of wood called a “gohei,” with a piece of paper folded in a way that is unique to the shrine, is placed in the appropriate place.

When I arrived at the front of the shrine around 5:00 p.m., my classmate Kazuma and Kazuma’s father, the head of the village, had already begun preparations. Kazuma was the chief of the volunteer fire department and had arrived in a fire truck. The reason for the fire truck is that this woven wood will be burned after the ritual. There is also another person, Masatoyokun. Masatoyokun seems to take care of this shrine.

I helped with the preparations, and together with Kazuma, he connected a hose from a fire hydrant on the street and sprayed water on the roof of the shrine and the tree to prevent a fire in advance.

After the preparations were finished, Kazuma took a beer from the refrigerator in the community center and gave it to me to drink. Kazuma was supposed to work the night shift tonight, but his wife was going to drop him off so he would be okay.

Shortly before 6:00 p.m., Kazuma took his son home because he had to work the night shift. Keima came with his two children. The priest also arrived in a light truck for the 6:00 p.m. Shinto ritual.

Shota also arrived. Keima and Shota are members of the volunteer fire department.

Masatoyokun asked me to sit in the back of the shrine, but I refused.

At 6:30, after the ritual was over, the fire was lit on the brazier.

Gradually, a crowd of people began to gather.

Two men with two lighted torches circle the brazier twice before lighting it. After the fire is lit, the people gather around and pull out the sticks before the fire spreads. The sticks are then taken home to be displayed. I never took one out because I don’t really want one.

The flames engulfed the woven wood, sending sparks high into the air. The flames were so intense that everyone was afraid they would spread to the neighboring trees.

Just before seven o’clock I was satisfied with the fire and decided to go home.

I said “I’m going home” to Ishii Chan, who was one year younger than me and had arrived when the fire was lit, and left.

Would I come back next year for this goma-burning ceremony?

And beyond that?