As January creeps up on us we can all be left feeling a bit defeated and in need of cheering up... so why not fly to Japan for a crazy winter fire festival! Every January the Nozawa Fire festival takes place in Japan and it is certain to heat up your winter blues.
The fire festival takes place in Nozawa Onsen - a village just outside Nagano City in Japan and has taken place annually since 1863. The festival is held in order to honor the 'Dosojin' who protect the town, and to pray for good fortune and health for the new year.
Preparations for the festival start some time before the actual day, with sacred beech trees being selected and cut down in order to create the shrine that will become the centre of the festival. The festival then starts with a battle... men aged 42 sit on top of the shrine and men aged 25 stand at the bottom of the shrine and protect it from being burned. A single match sets the shrine on fire and the battlefield is opened so that fighters can attempt to completely burn down the shrine.
What makes the festival even more bizarre is the fact that both the guards of the shrine and the attackers are drunk throughout the battle. Two-litre bottles of sake are passed around the battlefield and all involved are drunk after the four hours of battle. Eventually the 42-year-olds have to give up their duty of protecting the shrine and admit defeat, so clamber down from the burning tower, and only then is the battle over.