Monday, August 18, 2008


In Kyoto, at the end of Obon there is a big event called Daimonji (literally big chinese characters). During this event, they burn a character or picture into the side of 5 mountains around Kyoto, called gozan no okuribi. The wood that they use to light up these mountains are from various temples. People who visit these temples write their wishes onto these sticks and the sticks are carried up the various mountains to be burned.

When these sticks are burned, we send our ancestors off back to "their world", the fire is called okuribi because you are sending your ancestors off with a fire to light their way.

Every year, Satoshi's family temple has a special service. Everyone gathers early to pray and then the priest prays in front of each family's grave. After all the prayers are done, you can watch the okuribi. (You could see Kyoto Tower from the temple and the skies were a pinkish-purple.)

Most years, the service and Daimonji is held during the week, this year since it fell on a Saturday, we were able to participate in the special services. After the services, we went back home to see part of the okuribi from my MIL's house. (The mountain in the background is where the hidaridaimonji (left-big chinese character) is burned).

At 8:00 p.m., the first mountain is lit, this is called Daimonji and a chinese character which means large is lit.

Then at 8:15 p.m., the next mountain is lit and this is the Hidari-daimonji (left-chinese character). This character looks exactly like the Daimonji but it is on the left-side of Kyoto.

There is also a picture called Fune (or boat), this is lit on yet another mountain.

There are two more characters, Myoho & Ho, but we couldn't see these from where we were.

It was a great event, neighbors coming out of their houses, chatting with one another.

There was a sento (public bath) nearby my MIL's and they let us climb up onto their roof to see the Fune & Hidari-daimonji. They also said that we could come earlier next year to see the Daimonji.

It was a humid day and at one point the rain came down in big drops. There was thunder and lightning. We wondered if they would be able to light up the mountainsides with all that rain.

In the end, the skies cleared and we were able to send off our ancestors, as well as my FIL, safely.

On Sunday, we noticed that the skies had changed seasons. Hopefully it will get cooler from now.

Have a good week.


Deb in Hawaii said...

I have heard of the custom but have never seen pictures--very peaceful and beautiful. I hope the cooler weather gets there soon!

K and S said...

Thanks Deb, unfortunately it probably won't get cooler until the end of September :( guess I'll need to eat more ice cream!!

Take care.

Anonymous said...

That's good that it was on a Saturday so you guys could participate. How long did each character burn?

K and S said...

Each character burned for about 30 minutes each.

Take care.

KirkK said...

Hey Kat - I enjoy these posts about daily life and traditions. Thanks for sharing.

K and S said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, Kirkk.

Take care.

Bentoist said...

Oh wow thanks for sharing that! It's very educational.

K and S said...

You are welcome, Bentoist.

Take care.