This one-street sleepy village comes alive on this day as men dressed in little more than loincloths carry huge torches through town on their shoulders to calls of ''sai-rei, sai-ryo'' (meaning ''festival, good festival!!''). First the younger locals carry smaller ones but once the big guys get there, torches which can weigh as much as 80kg and be as long as 5m long are ablaze to the delight of the swelling crowds. As you walk through the town the ash and embers litter the streets looking like black snow as it crushes under your feet. Don't wear your newest pair of shoes.
A little pre planning is necessary as this festival has become super popular and the town is really tiny. In fact, to see the area of action, we had to join a loop of people and the police wouldn't let us get out. They herded us along and let us move 100m at a time so we could spend half the time on a path with nothing to see and the other half along the street. It's almost better to hang out a little south or north of where the main action takes place as there is still plenty to see and a little more breathing room. You also might want to prepare some snacks and drinks as options in the area are limited.
We went up quite early around 3pm and visited the hot springs "onsen" before sundown as we heard that the wait for the train up gets crazy after 5pm. We also took off before 9pm to avoid the crowds back, but as a result we missed the climax of the event. This year I might try the opposite and get there late and stay till the wee hours of the morning to party with the locals after the crowds head home.
Access: Take the Eizan railway from Demachiyanagi Station to Kurama Station. Use google maps for train times but be aware that the train gets very crowded between 5pm-8pm and you might have to wait up to an hour before being squeezed on to the train.