Daimonji Okuribi

Daimonji Okuribi (Great Bonfire Event)

August 16
In Japan, the belief that the souls of the dead return to earth during the Obon Festival gave rise to the custom of lighting great bonfires to guide the souls back to heaven after their yearly visit. This custom is known as Daimonji Okuribi, the Great Bonfire Event. In the city of Kyoto, an enormous flammable structure, built in the shape of the Chinese character dai, meaning "big," is set on fire on the hill in back of the Zenrinji Temple. The character is 530 feet tall and 510 feet wide, providing a spectacular display for city residents. The festival begins at 8:00 p.m., when the fires are lit. After this, more fires are lit on other mountains nearby. Hotels charge a fee to those who wish to watch the festival from their roofs, thereby insuring a view of all five okuribi. The banks of the Kamo-gawa River provide another popular viewing area.
According to legend, an apparition of a burning temple once appeared at the foot of the mountain, and this event inspired the yearly bonfires. Similar bonfires are held at Yokote and Hakone on the same night.
CONTACTS:
Kyoto City Tourism & Culture Information
233-5 Daimon-ji-cho, Atarashimachi-dori
Oike-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto, 604-8315 Japan
81-7-5811-6388; fax: 81-7-5813-3250
www.kyotoguide.com
SOURCES:
IllFestJapan-1993, p. 98
JapanFest-1965, p. 180