One of the great things about travelling is coming across the unexpected. We discovered that the 16th of August is the date for a time-honoured tradition of the hilltop fiery rituals.
The rituals, called the Daimonji Gozan Okuribi, are part of the Buddhist tradition “to guide back to Nirvana the spirits of the dead who have visited their surviving families during Bon”.
Bon is the “All Souls Festival” from 8 to 16 August.
Six huge fires across the mountains light up the skies of Kyoto and are visible across the city. We enjoyed the spectacular view from the lounge of the Westin Miyako Hotel. From our viewpoint we saw three of the fires and a portion of the fourth off to our East.
This bonfire is in the shape of the Chinese character “Dai” which means human body in Buddhism. The fire measures a massive 264 feet across and 528 feet long. Legend has it that the temple below the mountain was burned and the sacred image of Buddha flew up to the top of the mountain and shone for miles around. This fire was directly to our East so all we could see was the glow from the massive burning fires.
In 1294, Abbot Nichiern wrote the Chinese character “Myo” on the hillside of Mt. Nishiyama. Later people continued the tradition as means to pray to Buddha. The longest line of bonfires is 314 Feet and the shortest is only 99 feet.
This bonfire is shaped like a ship which is considered a symbol of Buddhism. The sails are 307 feet long.
Hidari means “left” in Japanese. It is said that this bonfire is a reflection of Daimonji in the east. It is 158 feet wide and 195 feet long.
We were very fortunate to be staying at the Westin Miyako Hotel and able to take advantage of the stunning view from the lounge and partake of one or two or three beer.
Note: The text provided was from a pamphlet handed out at the hotel.