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Five Mountains Send-off Bonfires

On August 16th, the Gozan-no-Okuribi (五山の送り火, Bonfires on the top of five mountains in Kyoto) was conducted and safely finished. Due to the typhoon hit Kyoto on the previous day, many people were worried if it would be carried out or not, because it was an very important annual event for sending off the spirits of ancestors. From the window of my parents’ house in the Nishijin (西陣) district, we had a good view of the Dai (大) shaped bonfire as always.

When the “Dai” bonfire is lit, somebody in the community screams to let us know the commencement of the event. When I was a child, the crowded atomosphere used to make me happy, however, to think our ancestors had been leaving us, it made me somewhat sad too. In fact, every year during this season, we reminisce our late beloved ones and feel blue.

Among the five bonfires, we rarely have the chance to see the bonfires of Myo (妙) or Ho (法) because there are rather remote. As a pair, these two charactors shape the mantra of Buddhism “Myoho (妙法)”. This year I was able to see the pair from the Matsugasaki (松ヶ崎) district. Luckly enough, each torch which configures the shape of Myo charactor was clearly to be seen. I also saw some people quitetly dedicating their prayers. Probably, they were thinking about their deceased family members.

After the Myo and Ho were lit, Funagata (船形, ship shaped), Hidari-Daimonji (左大文字, left Dai), and Toriigata (鳥居形, shrine gate shaped), were lit and gradually dwindled into ashes, reminding us of the end of the summer.

The seasonal transition from summer to fall always makes me sentimental.

Akane Kibune

Kyoto Expert Certification 1st Grade

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