Daimonji Fire Festival
Gozan no Okuribi
Gozan no Okuribi, more commonly known as "Daimonji Fire Festival" is the culmination of the Obon Festival on August 16, in which five giant bonfires are lit on the mountains around the city of Kyoto.
It signifies the moment when the spirits of deceased family members, who are said to visit this world during Obon Festival, are believed to be returning to the spirit world.
Starting at 8 PM, the giant bonfires are lit, each with a distinctive shape. Three of the fires form giant Chinese characters, and two form familiar shapes. The characters, meanings, their locations and the lighting times are:
Daimonji (大文字), "large" or "great"
On Mount Daimonjiyama, at 20:00
Myoho (妙法), "wondrous dharma" (a Buddhist teaching)
On Mount Nishiyama, at 20:10
Funagata (舟形), the shape of a boat
On Mount Funayama, at 20:15
Hidari Daimonji (左大文字), again, meaning "large"
On Mount Hidaridaimonji, at 20:15
Toriigata (鳥居形), the shape of a Torii or Shrine Gate
On Mount Mandara, at 20:20
The most famous and the first to be lit is the character dai (大), on Kyoto's Daimonjiyama which towers over Ginkaku-ji Temple and the rest of northern Higashiyama.
The other four mountains are set alight in counterclockwise fashion at five to ten-minute intervals, and by 8:30, all the characters can be seen. Each bonfire lasts for about 30 minutes.
The best place to view the festival is from the Nakagyo Ward, in the center of the city. Many hotels have Daimonji specials where, for a fee, you can see all five fires. Many people also like to go to the Kamo River for an excellent view of the initial fires.
Daimonjiyama - Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Prefecture