The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi—known as the Daimonji Festival—adds more heat to the hottest month of the year with its five blazing fires atop the mountains of Kyoto. The festival occurs annually on August 16th beginning at 8 p.m.
During the week-long Obon holiday, it’s believed that deceased ancestors return from the afterlife to visit the living. The Daimonji festival marks the end of their stay and guides the dead back to heaven with its burning fires.
Five bonfires are lit atop the large mountains surrounding the city on the north, east, and west sides. Three are in the shape of Chinese characters while the other two are in the shape of a shrine gate and a boat. The fires are enormous and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
The first fire is set at 8 p.m. on Daimonji—the main mountain of the festival—in the Higashiyama district. The four other fires are set on their respective mountains in counterclockwise order every 15 minutes. The fires each burn for about 40 minutes. 8:30 p.m. marks the sweet spot when they are all visible at once.