“Dondo-Yaki”, wishing you happiness in the new year

Wishing for good health and success in business in the new year with a bonfire flaming up, smoke soaring up high into the sky, and the sound of bamboo cracking…”Dondo-Yaki” is a traditional event in Japan held around January 15th. People build a tower with green bamboo, Japanese cedar, straw and reeds in an open area such as the grounds of a temple, a riverbed, rice field or other crop field and burn New Year decorations and Kakizome (the first calligraphy writing done at the beginning of the New Year) together with it. There is also a custom where good-luck charms, talismans and other lucky charms from last year are burned in thanks for the good luck they brought in the past year.

A flaming tower

There are a variety of tales passed down related to Dondo-Yaki: you will grow younger if you warm yourself at the fire of Dondo-Yaki, your handwriting skill will improve and you will grow wiser if your Kakizome, the first calligraphy writing of the year, burns and soars up high into the sky, you will stay healthy without catching a cold if you eat Mochi or rice cake and mandarin oranges grilled in the embers, crops will grow well if you scatter the ash from the fire onto the fields. People get together to watch the swaying fire while keeping their own wishes in mind.

While it is generally known as “Dondo-Yaki”, this event is also called “Sagichou” in Hokuriku, Tokai and Kyoto areas, “Tondo” in Kansai area, “Sainokami” in Tohoku area and “Onibitaki” in Kyushu area. The largest Dondo-Yaki is held in Mima City, in Tokushima Prefecture. In Tokyo, you can see it on the riverbed of the Tamagawa River in Setagaya-ku. Why not wish for your happiness in the new year while experiencing a traditional Japanese event at the same time?

Mima/ The largest Dondo-Yaki in Japan

Venue: Mima-cho, Mima City, Tokushima (in front of AMEMBO office, 400m to the east from Shikoku Saburou No Sato)

Date: Second Monday of January every year (held on January 12 in 2015), 9:30 am –

Access: 12 min walk from Eguchi Station of JR Tokushima Line

Dondo-Yaki on the riverbed of Tamagawa River

Venue: 1-chome Kamata, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo (North side of Futakotamagawa Ryokuchi Undoujou Picnic Hiroba)

Date: Second Monday of January every year (held on January 18 in 2015), 10:30 am –

Access: 20 min walk from Futakotamagawa Station of Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line