Back in the 940s (yes, that’s three digits), plagues, mega earthquakes, riots and all sorts of disasters befell Kyoto. In an effort to calm the Gods down, then-emperor Suzaku decided to move one of the deities away from his palace up north. Legend says a line of people as long as a kilometer trudged all the way to the town of Yuki, with reed torches in their hands, to see their god off.
The villagers of Kurama saw this procession and were so moved that they decided to preserve the tradition of lighting reed torches and honor the god, which continues to this day.
In the modern Kurama fire festival, families light the hay from their rooftops afire, then carry blazing torches around town on their shoulders.