Gozan Okuribi (bonfire) held on the evening of August 16 is one of Kyoto’s symbolic religious ceremonies in summer. Okuribi (bonfire) is said to send off ancestors’ spirits to the other side. People believe ancestral spirits come back to their homes around this time of the year. It is said that Gozan Okuribi became an annual event after the Muromachi and Edo periods (15c-17c).
Gozan Okuribi consists of five different characters on five mountains: “Daimonji” (large), “Myoho” (Buddha’s remarkable teaching), “Funagata” (ship), “Toriigata” (shrine gate) and “Hidaridaimonji” (large on Mt. Hidaridaimonjiyama). These five characters are lit off one after another from 8 p.m.
There are several views on the beginning; however the origin of the ceremony is unknown. Some historical sources say there used to be a custom to send off ancestors’ spirits by throwing burning torches into the air. In contrast, the present Gozan Okuribi adopts the style to light off the fire bed of each mountain.
Popular viewing places
Daimonji ：Along the east bank of the Kamo River (Marutamachi Bridge-Misonobashi Bridge)
Myoho ：Around Notre Dame Women?s College
Funagata ：Along Kitayama St.（Northwest of Kitayama Bridge）
Hidaridaimonji ：Along Nishioji St.（Saiin Sta.-Kinkakuji Temple）
Toriigata ： Saga Arashiyama Area