Kyoto Gozan no Okuribi: Did you Know 8/16 is a Very Important Day?
We’ve previously talked about Obon, the period for honoring one’s ancestors. On the final day of Obon, 8/16, there’s the very important custom of “Okuribi” (bonfire) for sending the spirits back to Heaven. It’s held all over the country. The one we’re featuring today is the Kyoto Gozan no Okuribi. I’m sure you recognize the photo. This is no simple event; it’s rich in meaning and history and on par in magnitude to Kyoto’s 3 big festivals.
20:00 Lighting the Fire
1. Daimonji – Higashiyamanyoigatake
大文字 – 東山如意ヶ嶽
20:05 Lighting the Fire
2. Myo / Ho – Matsugasaki
妙法 – 松ヶ崎
Myo and Ho are counted as one. At the same time at the foot of the mountain is said to be the oldest Bon-odori (dance) in Japan, the Matsugasaki Daimoku Odori. The Bon-odori isn’t merely a festival either, and it’s actually part of the significance of Okuribi.
20:10 Lighting the Fire
3. Funegata – Nishigamofuneyama
船形 – 西賀茂船山
20:15 Lighting the Fire
4. Hidari Daimonji – Ookitayama
左大文字 – 大北山
Thusly named because it’s to the left (“hidari”) of Daimonji. It’s smaller than the Daimonji.
20:20 Lighting the Fire
5. Toriigata – Mandarayama
鳥居形 – 曼荼羅山
They’re lit in this order at 5 min intervals from 8:00PM. It’s believed that the charcoal from the Okuribi wards off evil so people often wrap it in paper and hang it in their entryway.
Hotels with Good Views
You can simply see the Gozan no Okuribi if you go on the day of 8/16 but here are 2 of the best hotels with views of these 5 sites. Keep these in mind and you’ll create great memories just staying on 8/16. Warning: Book in advance because they’re popular!
Kyoto Tower Hotel
Visible Characters: Daimonji, Hidari Daimonji and Toriigata
After enjoying a traditional Japanese course meal, you can sip on sake and enjoy the views from 45m high in the Sky Lounge. There are also maiko dances to watch and yukata to rent so you can feel truly at home in Japan.
Official Homepage: http://www.kyoto-tower.co.jp/tower_hotel/en/index.html
Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
Visible Characters: All of them except for Myo
There aren’t really any hotels that can show you all of the Gozan no Okuribi at the same time. This may be a compact hotel but could be used as your base for touring Kyoto. They have an all-you-can-eat buffet and full-course meals that come with your stay. And it’s located not even a minute off the Shijo Station, conveniently located for sightseeing anywhere in Kyoto.
Official Homepage: http://karasuma.kyotohotel.co.jp/english/access/