Mt Takao-Hiwatari fire walking festival 3 2009-03-08.jpg
Lay-people pray during the Hiwatari firewalking festival in a fire ritual called Saito Goma-ku at Yakuo-in temple in Takaosanguchi in Tokyo, Japan on March 8 2009 .. Held on the second Sunday of March as part of the monks ascetic training the festival attracts thousands of visitors and tourists eager to try fire walking under the supervision of the monks. Each fire walker receives a blessing from the head monk after they have crossed the fire. The ritual features the burning of nadegi or sticks with the hopes and desires of the people written on them upon the sacred fire and their burning is meant to release the desire and make it come true. According to the temples website the ritual is used to pray for 'protection from sickness and to purify people by burning defilements away.'