Higisho (the taking of a religious oath with red-hot iron) (火起請)

Higisho is a kind of ordeal believed as God's judgment conducted in Japan during the medieval period and modern times, also being referred to as Tekka (red-hot iron) or Kasei (oath of fire). People catched red-hot iron (an iron piece or bar) with their hands and walked to kamidana (a household Shinto altar) carrying it, and if they succeeded in the trial, their claim was judged to be right.

Higisho was mostly conducted during disputes over the boundaries of territories from the Sengoku (civil war) period to the early Edo period, for the purpose of seeking God's judgment when such disputes cannot be settled.

Representatives who were selected from each of the disputing groups, after purifying themselves by abstaining from eating meat, spread Gohoins (talisman) on their palms, held red-hot iron onto them and carried the iron with their bare hands in front of presenting government officials, then validity of the claims from their belonging groups was determined according to the degree of their accomplishment. If a representative failed, his group was deemed to lose the dispute and he was dragged around the city or decapitated as punishment for trying to deceive God, or in extreme cases, he was torn apart into five pieces (hands, legs and head) and several mounds under which the torn pieces of mortal remains were buried were built in a line and defined as boundaries. Even if a representative won, he got maimed due to burn injuries in many cases. Therefore, it was commonly considered that a group should be responsible for taking care of its representative who had undergone higisho and his family, whether he won or not.

Records of higisho were left all over Japan, including the Aizu Region and the Omi Province, and mounds called "tekka zuka" (a grave for red-hot iron), which are said to have been built as a result of higisho, remain in some areas.

[Original Japanese]