Toyama: Bonfire tradition from Edo period

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bamboo tower burns during the “Onzuro, Konzuro” ritual bonfire on Jan. 15 in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture.

KUROBE, Toyama — Residents of a district in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, prayed for sound health in a ritual sagicho bonfire that has been a local tradition since the Edo period (1603-1867).

A 6-meter-high tower made of bamboo and straw was set up at Oritate Shrine on Jan. 15 and decorated with kakizome calligraphy written by Unazuki Elementary School students. With about 100 residents watching, seven sixth graders from the school lit the bonfire, which sparked flames and sent burning pieces of the kakizome floating into the air.

Known as “Onzuro, Konzuro,” people pray during the event by burning kakizome written at the start of the year along with New Year’s ornaments.

The sight of the burnt kakizome floating into the air resembles large and small cranes taking flight. Such a sight of cranes — called tsuru in Japanese — is called “ozuru, kozuru” (a big crane and a small crane), which was corrupted to become “onzuro, konzuro.”

“I hope the pandemic is contained soon and this year will become a year of sound health for everyone,” said the district’s promotion association head Takanari Sugimoto.