The Daimonji Fires, Kyoto, Japan

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Daimonji Gozan Okuribi, Kyoto, Japon




The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) is an event held on the evening of August 16th, during which gigantic Kanjis (Chinese characters) and other motifs are depicted by fires lit to illuminate the slopes of the mountains surrounding the Kyoto Basin.

Although there are several interpretations as to the origins of this event, it is generally regarded as “a fire at the gate” for seeing off the souls of ancestors after commemorating welcoming them during the Obon festival.

The best known character is “Dai” (meaning “large”) set on fire on Mt. Daimonji. Others famous ones are “Myo” (the one on my picture) and “Ho” which make up the word “Myo-Ho” (excellent teaching of Buddha) on Matsugasaki Nishiyama and Higashiyama mountains.

Myou - Daimonji Gozan OkuribiWe were invited to a friend’s house, centrally located and high enough to offer an easy panoramic view of five fires (all except one).  Unfortunately, it had been raining all day and we even wondered if the festival would be canceled.  So, instead of a buffet outside on the top terrace of the house, we had a dinner inside and just went out for the fires.  These fires only last for 30 minutes at most.  A lot of people were in the streets to catch a sight of these fires.

From where to see the fires

The best viewing spot for the character “Dai” set on fire on Mt. Daimonji on the East of the city is on the Kamogawa River bank.

“Myo” is best seen from Kitayama-dori (near Notre Dame Jogakuin).

The Takanogawa River bank (north of Takanobashi Bridge) is best for “Ho”.

Nishi-Oji-dori (Saiin – Kinkakuji) is a good spot to view the “Dai” at Hidari-Daimonji.

Kitayama-dori (northwest of Kitayamabashi Bridge) offers good views of the funa-gata motif.

The torii-gata motif is best seen from Matsuobashi Bridge and Hirosawa-no-Ike Pond.

From the highest point of the Funaokayama Park (free admission), you can command a panoramic view of all the mountains with the exception of the mountain with the torii-gata motif.


The Rakans of Otagi Nembutsu Temple, Kyoto
Matsuage Fire Festival in Hanase, Kyoto