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Bonfire Ceremony at Saga Shakado

I visited Seiryo-ji (清凉寺) temple, also known as Saga Shakado (嵯峨釈迦堂), to see Otaimatsushiki (お松明式, a bonfire ceremony). The ceremony is a famous event in the early spring, and is listed as three top bofire in Kyoto along with the Gozan no okuribi (五山の送り火, Send-off Bonfire on five mountains in Kyoto) of summer, and Kurama (鞍馬) bonfire of autumn.

As the darkness falls, three torches with a height of seven meters are lit one by one, and monstrous flame and vivid sparks soar to the night sky. The bonfire is conducted as a part of Nehane (涅槃会, Buddhist service held on the day of Buddha’s death) to express the cremation of the Buddha. In addition, people say that the three torches tell the good or bad luck of the rice crop of the year.

On this day, the statue of Oshaya-sama (お釈迦様, Buddha) is open to the public, and visitors also can enjoy viewing a Kyogen (狂言, Noh comedy) play titled Saga-dainenbutsu (嵯峨大念仏狂言).

Three torches, flaming in scarlet, truly represent the early spring in Kyoto.

Akane Kibune
Kyoto Expert Certification 1st Grade





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