Feb 2, 2019
Looking out over the waters of the Seto Inland Sea, it’s hard to imagine that these waters were once controlled by pirates. Pirates? Yes, pirates, or kaizoku in Japanese. The suigun clans, as they are also often described, once controlled these shipping lanes with an iron grip as strong as those of the land based samurai clans. Innoshima Island (part of the island hopping Shimanami Kaido route) was the stronghold of one branch of the Murakami Suigun that controlled the swift flowing, and often treacherous, waters around the Shimanami islands and is very proud of its suigun heritage. The island hosts no less than three festivals during the summer months to commemorate its pirate history; the “Island Festival”, the “Sea Festival” and, largest and most spectacular, the “Fire Festival”.
The Fire Festival, held on a long sandy swimming beach under the watchful eye of a concrete brontosaurus (I kid you not) comes at the end of summer and is an opportunity for locals and visitors to don their yukata summer kimono one last time. They sample the culinary delights from the food stalls, enjoy watching taiko drumming, dances, samurai parades, boat races, the charging of flaming pine trees and one of the region’s last fireworks displays of the summer. It really is quite a spectacular event.
As night falls, fires are lit and everyone’s attention turns to the beach as historical reenactments begin. The whole event is meant to the represent the triumphant return of the suigun warriors dressed in samurai armor and the joyous reception provided to them by the villagers who have kept the home fires burning while they were away at sea.
Things start with the reenactment of the return of the boats, followed by samurai pirates marching up and down the beach, and the parading of huge torches which sometimes clash creating showers of fiery sparks.
The whole evening ends with more drumming, the punching of fists in the air of the assembled suigun warriors and an impressive 15-minute fireworks display over the sea.
The Innoshima Suigun Fire Festival is held at the end of August or beginning of September every year at Shimanami Beach at Shimanami Amenity Park a short distance from the Innoshima Bridge on the Shimanami Kaido cycle route.
The Innoshima Suigun Fire Festival
Address: Innoshima Amenity Park/Shimanami beach Ohamacho, Onomichi-shi
Website: http://0845.boo.jp/suigun/ (Japanese website is only available)
Phone: +81-845-26-6212 (Japanese language only)
Dates: At the end of August
Access to Onomichi:
Information about transport passes:
Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass
JR-WEST RAIL PASS
*Information is correct as of January 2019.
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