Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Daimonji Gozan Okuribi

The most famous bonfire festival during the Obon season is the Daimonji Gozan Okuribi. It takes place on five mountains around Kyoto on the night of August 16th. At about 8.00 pm, giant characters and symbols are set aflame and these bonfires are lit to guide the souls of deceased ancestors back to their other world.
The symbols and characters are dai (the larger dai as shown above and a smaller one, hidari dai monji), myo 妙 and ho 法 (togeher they mean 'the marvelous law of Buddha’), torii-gata (Shinto shrine gate) and funagata (shaped like a ship).
During the day, huge torches are arranged and prepared for the night of fire ceremony.
All pictures were taken from my school building. During the night, banks of the Kamo River will be crowded with festival-goers to enjoy the burnings on these mountains.
On Mt Nyoigatake, the character dai (literally means large) measures about 230 feet (horizontal stroke), 510 feet and 408 feet in each strokes.
The symbols are lit in sequence around the city, dai monji (20:00) being the first, myo and ho (20:10), hidari dai monji and funagata (20:15) and lastly torii-gata (20:20).
During the festival, city lights and flashy neons are sort of turned off to enhance the spectacular of the bonfires.
Couldn't view the other three symbols from the school building (perhaps next year).
The fires are blazed for about 30 minutes and as the fire burns, priests recite sutras and services are held to console the spirits.

Mount Nyoigatake (also known as Daimonji-yama) can be climbed during the rest of the year, which offers some really splendid sunset and night view.


Primrose said...

Wow, were you there to take these pictures? Meaningful though I don't read much chinese. I would think that it should be more of japanese characters than chinese though chinese characters are widely used.

Eddie said...

it takes few japanese character to represent one single Chinese character.
They will need 10 or more mountains if they want to write in Japanese character.

arGlene said...

these torches are beautiful...though I don't specifically understand the meaning of every chinese character.:)

emotionalistic said...

Very creative :)....

P de Animal said...

well! your picture remind me Kyoto...I miss japan...kidding!
I will go to Niagara falls tomorow hopefully it'll be clear sky...
take care!


Patrick Leong said...

primrose / eddie : there were actually better locations to view the bonfires. i was busy at school. just climbed to the 7th floor, sneaked (well with permission) into others' labs and snapped a few pictures. well eddie is right. and not only characters are used here. some bonfires have the shape of a shrine gate (torii) and a ship (fune).

stargazer : i don't know myself either why these characters and symbols are used during the festival. all i know is that the obon season is a festival for the dead. during the obon season, the spirits of a family's ancestors are said to return to the family home and they were sometimes greeted with mukaebi, literally means welcoming fire. meanwhile the daimonji festival is a ceremony to see off the spirits (okuribi).

emotionalistic : yes. indeed right ? i don't think you will see this in malaysia. but i think the chinese ghost festival is more colorful.

pear : yea. we know you are kidding. you must be having a great time in the states. :P take alot of pictures and show us later.

Melissa said...

YaY! Finally! I have been waiting for these :) I wouldnt mind being stuck in the lab, if this was the view! Thanks for your awesome pix, AGAIN! I wish I could have been there, but this is the next best thing!

Elisa said...

waaaaaaaa...... son unas imágenes increibles!! siempre me sorprendes con las fotos que pones ;)

Sweepy said...

Hey, I've read/hear about the bonfire ceremony, I've actually never seen picture (and I never thought to Google it) so this is actually quite nice. Good work as always, Patrick!!

Patrick Leong said...

melissa : it would be better if i work on the 7th floor. then i will have good view everyday :P

elisa : thanks. i will surprise you with more pictures in the future.

sweepy : these bonfire festivals are celebrated throughout japan. other prefectures also have similar events. i am looking forward to the fire festival in october. i have never seen it despite being in kyoto for more than 3 years.