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Goin’ Japanesque!

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.

Obon: The Meaning Behind Obon Holiday and Methods that Have Been Passed Down

 

20:00 Lighting the Fire

1. Daimonji – Higashiyamanyoigatake

大文字 – 東山如意ヶ嶽

gozan-no-okuribi1
This is probably the most famous. It’s also called the Migi-Daimonji because of the Hidari-Daimonji mentioned later.

 

20:05 Lighting the Fire

2. Myo / Ho – Matsugasaki

妙法 – 松ヶ崎

gozan-no-okuribi2gozan-no-okuribi3
http://kyoto-tabiya.com/

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.

Bon-odori: Uchimizu: Saving the Environment while Conserving Traditions

 

20:10 Lighting the Fire

3. Funegata – Nishigamofuneyama

船形 – 西賀茂船山

gozan-no-okuribi4
The shape of a boat comes forth

 

20:15 Lighting the Fire

4. Hidari Daimonji – Ookitayama

左大文字 – 大北山

gozan-no-okuribi5
http://d.hatena.ne.jp/U-92SAN/

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

gozan-no-okuribi6
This one’s said to be the most beautiful because it looks like a torii gate. The lantern floats at Arashiyama make for a beautiful sight.

Toro Nagashi: The Asakusa Summer Night Festival: Floating Lanterns Carrying People’s Sentiments are So Lovely

Tips:
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

Kyoto-Tower-Hotel1Kyoto-Tower-Hotel2
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

Karasuma-Kyoto-Hotel
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/

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