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August 16th, Blazing fires lit under the summer sky

Gozan no Okuribi Fire Ritual

The Gozan no Okuribi is a traditional religious ritual held in the summer.  Every year on August 16th, this ritual marks the end of the Buddhist summer events following other ceremonies like Manto-e candle lighting and Matsu-age fire rituals.  Buddhist symbols appear on the five mountains surrounding the city.There are various accounts of how the Gozan no Okuribi started, but it is proven that people climbed up the mountain and made the characters with torch light in their hands until around the Edo period (1600-1868).On August 16th, at 20:00, streetlights in the city are turned off all at once and the first fire is set on Higashiyama Nyoigatake (Mount Daimonji).  The “Dai” character gradually appears and this is the beginning of the fire ritual.  Following the “Dai,” “Myo” on Mount Mantoro, “Ho” on Mount Daikokuten, “Funa-gata” on Mount Nishigamo Funayama and “Hidari Daimonji” on Mount Okita are set.  The last character, “Torii-gata” on Mount Mandara in Saga Toriimoto is set at 20:20.  People remember their family members and ancestors with great solemnity while observing the characters.





Hidari Daimonji  

It is said that the fire ritual of Hidari Daimonji started later than Daimonji, Myo, Ho and Funa-gata.  For a period during its long history the character had one more line, which made the character read “Ten (heaven).”  Around 19:00 on August 16th, gomagi wooden amulets are burned in Ho-on-ji Temple and the ceremony begins.  One main torch and 40 other hand-held torches are lit using the fire from the burning gomagi as well as torches set at 25 places in front of the temple.  The fire is brought to the top of the mountain and the Hidari Daimonji character is lit.

Fire setting time: 20:15

Recommended watching spot: Nishioji Street (between Saiin and Kinkaku-ji Temple)

Goma amulet reception: In front of Kinkaku-ji Temple: Goma wooden amulet: 300 yen; 15th: 9:00-15:00, 16th: 7:00-14:00

Fujin-gaho,June issue,2013 Published on 13.06.28

Translation to English by AD BRAIN INC. Fujin-gaho,June issue,2013 Published on 13.06.28