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Dondo Yaki at Oyama Dairi Park: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Dondo Yaki Jan. 1, 2016 4K, Oyama Dairi Park" (どんど焼き(4K動画、2016年1月11日、小山内裏公園)), was uploaded by "Hiroharu Ashikaga" (足利宏治). This video introduces Dondo Yaki, a traditional Japanese event that involves lighting bonfires at the end of the New Year holiday in Japan.

Have you ever heard of Dondo Yaki? It's a Japanese fire festival that actually has different names in different regions of Japan. Some of these names include Sankuro, Sagicho, Donto Yaki, and Doso Jin Matsuri.

This video introduces the fire festival being held at Oyama Dairi Park in Machida, Tokyo, in Japan's Kanto region.

During the event, leaves from the kaya tree (Japanese nutmeg-yew) are piled up like a mountain on a scaffold made of wood and bamboo so that the bonfire burns well. Then, Japanese New Year's decorations, such as Shimekazari (a rope decoration to ward off evil and bring luck) and Kadomatsu are placed on top of the bonfire and burned.

The bigger the bonfire becomes, the more spectacular it looks.
It's a sight you don't want to miss!

[Video] 1:38 - Flames Rising Into the Sky

What Is Dondo Yaki? The Meaning of the Name and the History of the Traditional Japanese Festival

Image of Dondo Yaki
Photo:Dondo Yaki

The history of this Japanese Fire festival dates back to Japan's Heian Period (794 AD - 1185 AD). Dondo Yaki is an event to see off the god of the New Year as he returns to the sky after visiting people's homes during the New Year's holiday. Dondo Yaki is a fire festival with a long history, in which local people burn lucky charms and decorations, such as shimekazari and kadomatsu, as well as kakizome, to ward off bad luck for the year and to wish for a good harvest, prosperous business, family safety, good health, and the prosperity of one's descendants.

There are various theories as to the origin of the name Dondo Yaki. One suggests that it was named after the crackling noise of bamboo when it burns, which is "Don!" in Japanese. Another suggests that it comes from the word "Don don moeru" (どんどん燃える, lit "to burn gradually"). There is also a custom of skewering mochi (rice cakes), mikan (mandarin oranges), and dango, and roasting them over the bonfire during Dondo Yaki. Doing so is thought to keep one healthy throughout the year and protect them from the cold, and is a custom that has been passed down from generation to generation in almost every region of Japan.

When and Where Is Dondo Yaki Held in Tokyo?

Here's a look at some Dondo Yaki events held in Tokyo. If you're in Tokyo for the New Year's holiday, consider dropping by this historic New Year's event as part of your sightseeing trip.

Torikoe Shrine – Tondoyaki
Location: 2 Chome-4-1 Torigoe, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0054
Event Dates: January 8, 2022 (Sat) ※The temple office will be open from January 5 (Wed) to morning on January 8 (Sat)
Hours: Starting at 1:00 p.m. (Hours are subject to change depending on the weather)
[Access] A 5-minute walk from Kuramae Station (Subway)
An 8-minute walk from the West Exit of JR Asakusabashi Station
A 10-minute walk from Shin-Okachimachi Station on the Oedo Line

Image of Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Photo:Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Hanazono Shrine – Yunohana Shinji (Yuhana Matsuri)
Location: 5 Chome-17-3 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022
Event Dates: Saturday, January 8, 2022
Hours: Starts at 11:00 a.m.
[Access] Exit E2 of Shinjuku Sanchome Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Fukutoshin Line, and Toei Shinjuku Line
A 7-minute walk from the East Exit of Shinjuku Station on the JR, Odakyu, and Keio Lines

■Tama River Riverside – Dondo Yaki
Location: North side of the picnic plaza in Futakotamagawa Park
Event Dates: January 16 (Sun.), 2022 (tentative) ※Decorations to be burnt can be brought to the festival from January 9 (Sun.) to January 16 (Sun.), 10:00 a.m.
Hours: Previous years started at 11:00 a.m., but this year is scheduled to start earlier
[Access] A 15-minute walk from Futakotamagawa Station on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line and Tokyu Oimachi Line
From Futakotamagawa Station, take the bus bound for Seijo Gakuen-mae (成城学園前), get off at Yoshizawa (吉沢), and walk 5 minutes

■The Komae Shoshun Festival's Dondo Yaki
Location: Tamagawa Ryokuchi Park 4 Chome-1 Inogata, Komae, Tokyo 201-0015
Event Dates: January 9, 2022 (Sun) ※Decorations to be burnt can be brought to the festival on January 8 (Sat) 14:00-16:00, January 9 (Sun) from 8:00-
Hours: [Opening ceremony] Starting at 9:30 - [Ignition] from 10:00 -
[Access] A 5-minute walk from Izumi-Tamagawa Station on the Odakyu Line

Things to Keep In Mind When Participating in Dondo Yaki

Dondo Yaki is considered a children's festival, and the main participants are elementary and junior high school students. In the video, you can see children lighting the fire as well.
[Video] 0:07 - Children Lighting the Fire

Children are considered messengers of the gods and carry out a series of events, such as inviting good luck and exorcising bad luck for the year. In local communities across Japan, children and adults share roles in organizing events, and through New Year's festivities, local people bond together and residents of all ages deepen their mutual understanding of one another and interact with one another. Each community has its own rules, customs, and legends. We recommend checking the details of each event before participating.

Summary of Dondo Yaki, a Traditional New Year's Event in Japan

Image of a New Year's bonfire
Photo:A New Year's bonfire

Dondo Yaki has a long history dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185). What better place to renew your New Year's resolution than in front of a blazing bonfire? In Japan there's also a traditional Japanese candy called Dondon Yaki (どんどん焼き). Both of them have similar names, and both are products of an important Japanese tradition with a long history. Dondo Yaki is held only once a year, at the end of the New Year's holiday. We recommend visiting with your family if you have the chance!

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 17, 2022
山田コウスケ(Kosuke Yamada)
Born in Fukuoka Prefecture. I enjoy grabbing drinks and making travel plans.
A Traditional Japanese New Year's Event! Burning New Year's Decorations in Tokyo's Oyama Dairi Park to See Off New Year's Gods!
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