Each year the small communities in our area gather at the start of the new year to perform a ritual called dondo yaki or sometimes called saitoyaki. Essentially this is an ancient ceremony where last year's amulets, wishes written on special paper, and new year's decorations are burned, in hopes of a good new year. There is a lot of varying info amongst the community, and on the Internet so I apologize in advance if this is not the best description.
What is important is that it is yet another event where the community gets together for a common good. The first step of this is to create the giant bonfire. This was my first year as a member of the building party. I was actually there for dual purposes. First was as part of the Kaboutai (volunteer firefighter and disaster preparedness team) since we will be supervising the actual burn this coming Thursday evening, and standing by with the fire truck and pumper. The second as a male member of the community, where it is expected that all able bodies help out. We ended up with a team of just over 25 of us setting up the giant pieces of bamboo for the fire.
This sure was some hard work, and fun to hang out with the old guys in the neighborhood. I figure in twenty year's I will be the supervisor of stuff like this so I better start learning now!
On Thursday evening the whole community will come out and burn their stuff, and then roast Dango (dough balls made from a type of rice flower) balls on bamboo poles, sip Nihon-Shu (Sake), and enjoy some drinks and snacks. The kids will be running wild but everyone will stay close to the fire since it is quite cold out. This is a good time of neighborly fellowship that I look forward to!
The weather was perfect for the work to be done, cool and clear, and Mount Fuji was 'supervising' all day! Enjoy the pics, and I will post more after we do the big burn!