This festival held at Omiya-Shrine is one of the three greatest fire festivals of summer in Kumamoto, known as the Land of Fire. Its rivals are the Hi-no-Kuni Matsuri, or the Land of Fire Festival, held in early August in Kumamoto City and the Nagomi-machi Kofun Matsuri, or the Nagomi Town Ancient Tombs Festival , held at the beginning of August in Nagomi-machi, Tamana-gun.
Its origins lie in the ancient legend of how the Emperor and his suite, hindered by fog, were received by villagers holding pine torches to illuminate their path. Also known as the ‘festival held throughout the night,’ the Sennin Toro Odori on the second day refers to 1,000 women, dressed in cotton summer kimono and bearing lighted gold and silver lanterns on their heads, dance all night long as they sing ‘Yoheho-bushi’ in a very slow tempo. As for the men, they reproduce the scene of welcoming the Emperor and line up for the Pine Torch Procession in ancient costume.
Other attractions include the decorations of lanterns in the shape of shrines and castles on streets throughout the town announcing the opening of the festival and dances performed in many parts of the town by dancers dressed in the same type of kimono. The closing ceremony when lanterns are offered to Omiya Shrine, in other words to the gods, which takes place just at midnight on the 17th should not be missed. Another spectacular event is the fireworks display on the evening of the 15th, when approximately 4,000 fireworks are launched from the Kikuchigawa River Terrace.