Gozan no Okuribi – 五山送り火
On August 16th Kyoto’s famous bonfire festival took place. Gozan no Okuribi roughly translates to “five mountains farewell bonfire”. This festival is also known as Daimonji and is the culmination of the Buddhist festival Obon.
The Obon festival is a has its roots in Buddhist tradition that lasts several days. At the beginning of the festival, the souls of the ancestors revisit their graves and families. And at the end the spirits are being escorted back with lanterns. In Kyoto has a special tradition where not only lanterns are lit by the people, but also five huge bonfires are fired up to escort the spirits back. Each fire is on a different hill surrounding Kyoto and have four different shapes. Two mountains feature a huge 大 which means “big”. The others are: a giant boat shaped fire, one large 妙 and one large 法 meaning together “excellent methods” or “wondrous dharma”. And finally a giant Torii or gate shaped fire.
I went to Hirosawa Pond, which is close from my apartment to watch the lanterns and the giant Torii. Starting at sun set, people planted lanterns from their boats into the pond, each representing a soul. Around 8 pm when the first bonfire is lit, the pond was full of colourful lanterns.
At 8:20 pm the Torii, which is a big gate, was incinerated. It was rather challenging to take good shots of it.