Spotlight on Kyoto’s Okera-Mairi Ceremony

Every New Year’s Eve, the city of Kyoto, Japan holds the Okera Matsuri festival during which people pray for good health in the coming year, and the process of visiting festival is called the Okera-Mairi ceremony. The annual Okera Matsuri festival typically begins at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and runs until 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day, and the event is held at Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine.

During this festival, bonfires are lit, and roots of the medicinal okera herb, which is traditionally associated with eliminating malevolent energy, are tossed into the flames. Because it is thought that preparing a meal over these flames will bring a year of peace, taking some embers from the fire is often a part of the Okera-Mairi ceremony. For this reason, it is customary for people to light bamboo ropes to take home with them from the festival.

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