While I was spending some time in Saitama Prefecture recently, I was lucky enough to be there on the same weekend as a popular fire festival. Less luckily, I had to leave about 6 hours before the festival actually started.
The festival had a most interesting story. It may be somewhat lost in translation, but…
The son of a god and a princess meet for just one night. I’m not sure how euphemistically “meet” is used here, because some time later, the princess finds herself pregnant. Whether through means of the supernatural or Barry White was not made clear to me. When the princess then tells the son of the god that it’s his child, he refuses to believe it.
Some time later, the woman gives birth to the child. Once again, she goes to the son of the god to present his child, but he still will not believe the princess. So, she hits upon a definitive paternity test.
She puts the baby in a burning house. That is to say – she puts the baby in the house, and then sets fire to it. Her theory is that if the child survives, it must have godly genes. If not…. well, perhaps she would have just been disappointed to not have a god-gene imbued son anyhow.
The really funny part of the story is that of the four people I asked about it, everyone was quite hazy about what exactly happened to the child after the whole “putting the baby in a blazing inferno” part. I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it survived, but I thought that detail was worth a passing thought.
So today, they re-enact the story. Even though I wasn’t able to see the festival proper, we happened to be there during the rehearsal. Two local youngsters, playing the son of the god and the princess, were practicing their arson skills, getting ready for the big evening. Luckily, other people have taken photos before, which you may like to see if you like to see burning things.
Because remember, fire is awesome.