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Gozan no Okuribi – A Summer Tradition in Kyoto: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Gozan no Okuribi 4K" (五山送り火 4K Gozan no Okuribi), was uploaded by "MOVIE JAPAN."
The video begins with scenes of spectators at Gozan no Okuribi, part of the obon festival in Kyoto, on the banks of the Kamo River, and shows the different bonfires floating up into the summer night sky.

What is Gozan no Okuribi? The History of the Festival and More

Image of Gozan no Okuribi (Daimonji), Kyoto
Photo:Gozan no Okuribi (Daimonji), Kyoto

Gozan no Okuribi (Daimonji) is one of the four major festivals in Kyoto, along with Aoi Matsuri, Gion Matsuri, and Jidai Matsuri. The five mountains of Gozan no Okuribi, called 'Daimonji Yaki,' are all registered as Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Kyoto City.

In Kyoto, the souls of one's ancestors are called "Oshorai-san." Gozan no Okuribi is an event held every year on the night of August 16 to send the spirits back to the realm of the dead after they have returned during the Obon Festival.

During Gozan no Okuribi, visitors can offer a homa stick, a prayer stick used in a ritual burning to ask for blessings. It is said that if you write your name and the name of your illness on the homa stick and offer it, your illness will be cured.
The homa sticks will then be carried by the preservation group to the fire beds at the top of the mountains, where they will be burned in bonfires.
For a donation of 300 yen per homa stick, anyone can make an offering, not just local residents. ※Homa sticks are only accepted at specific locations at specific times. Please confirm the acceptance periods, etc., via the FAQ on the official website as they differ for each location.
As for how long the Gozan no Okuribi has been held, there are actually few historical documents of the event, and almost no records remain.
The oldest documented historical account is from Ozuki Tadatoshi (Tadatoshi Sukuneki), which records that in 1649 Ozuki Tadatoshi saw the Nishiyama Daimonji, Fune (boat), Higashiyama Daimonji, and Minami (South) bonfires.

The locations for Gozan no Okuribi are as follows. Bonfires will be lit at different times.

Nyoigatake (Mt. Daimonji) on Mt. Higashiyama

【Daimonji】8:00 PM... Nyoigatake (Mt. Daimonji) on Mt. Higashiyama
【Myoho】8:05 PM... 'Myo' (妙) West Mountain of Matsugasaki; 'Ho' (法) East Mountain of Matsugasaki
【Funagata】8:10 PM... Funeyama in Nishigamo
【Hidari Daimonji】8:15 PM... Okitayama (Mt. Daimonji)
【Toriigata】8:20 PM... Mt. Mandara in Saga-Toriimoto
In the past, many other characters were lit as send-off fires.

Where to See Gozan no Okuribi

Image of Kamigamo Misono Bridge, Kyoto
Photo:Kamigamo Misono Bridge, Kyoto

Here are some viewing locations where each of the five bonfires can be seen clearly.

Daimonji: Around Misono Bridge, Marutamachi Bridge, Mt. Funaoka, Matsugasaki Station, Takano Bridge
Myoho: The area around Notre Dame Jogakuin/Mt. Funaoka/Matsugasaki Station/Shogunzuka
Toriigata: Seiryouji Temple North (清涼寺北)/Hirosawa Pond (Matsuo Bridge)
Hidari Daimonji: Mt. Funaoka/From Kinkakuji Temple to Saiin on Nishi Oji Street/Shogunzuka
Funagata: Around Misono Bridge/Mt. Funaoka/Kitayama-dori/Northwest from Kitayama Bridge/Around Matsugasaki Station/Shogunzuka

Gozan-no-Okuribi can be viewed from restaurants, such as those on the Kamogawa Nouryou-Yuka (summertime decks with restaurants). Advance reservations are recommended for those who wish to view the bonfires while enjoying a meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Viewing the event and the bonfires in this way is sure to be an exceptional experience.

If you're looking for some Instagram shots, you can also view the bonfire from higher places. From the observation deck of Kyoto Tower in front of Kyoto Station, you can enjoy Gozan no Okuribi along with a night view of Kyoto. A viewing event will be held for the first time at Kyoto Tower in 3 years.
Tickets for this event will be sold in advance, so be sure to look up the information if you wish to attend.

Other Obon Events in Kyoto: Arashiyama Toro Nagashi & Hirosawa Pond Toro Nagashi

Image of Hirosawa Pond Toro Nagashi Lantern Float, Kyoto
Photo:Hirosawa Pond Toro Nagashi Lantern Float, Kyoto

On August 16, the same day as Gozan no Okuribi, a lantern floating ceremony is held to send the spirits of ancestors to the realm of the dead in lanterns. Below are the lantern floats held at Arashiyama and Hirosawa Pond. The toriigata bonfire can be seen from both locations.

Arashiyama Toro Nagashi (Lantern Float)
Date & Time: August 16, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: Arashiyama Park Nakanoshima Area (Kyoto Prefectural Arashiyama Park)
Access: Kyoto city bus 28 "Arashiyama Koen"

Henjoji Temple Toro Nagashi (Hirosawa Pond)
Date & Time: August 16, around 7:00 PM
Location: Henjoji Temple
Access: Kyoto City Bus 26 "Yamagoe"

Summary of Gozan no Okuribi in Kyoto, Japan

In the video, you can see tourists gazing up at the bonfires of Gozan no Okuribi.
[Video] 0:45 - People Admiring the Bonfires of Gozan No Okuribi
This short video contains the charms of Gozan no Okuribi, an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Kyoto. Unfortunately, the 2020 and 2021 festivities were greatly reduced due to the novel coronavirus, and although the bonfires were lit, the floating letters could not be viewed. 2022 is scheduled to be the first time in three years that the entire festival will be able to be viewed.

Bus tours that include meals, lantern floating, and viewing of Gozan no Okuribi are also available. Consider joining one one if you're traveling to Kyoto in the summer! The bonfires of Gozan no Okuribi, a summer tradition, float silently in the night sky of Kyoto. Enjoy the end of summer by remembering your ancestors.

【Tripadvisor】Kyoto Gozan no Okuribi

Written By
Last Updated : Aug. 12, 2022
鈴木実鈴(Misuzu Suzuki)
Well-paced, easy-to-read writing for everyone! I am writer and a mother.
Gozan no Okuribi – A Traditional Event to Send off the Spirits of the Deceased During the Obon Festival of Kyoto, Japan
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