Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Daimonji

Blaze and amaze. Praise the ancestral spirits during Kyoto's annual fire display.

  • Annually, Aug. 16
  • 8 p.m.
Once a year in the middle of the ancestor-worshipping Obon (Japanese Festival of the Dead) season in August, the mountainside near the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto Prefecture is set ablaze.

For most of the night, a fire rages that can be seen for miles around. However, far from a wild, uncontrollable conflagration, revelers soon notice that the fire spells a message in Japanese characters: 大 (great) on Daimonji mountain and 妙法 (The most splendid methods of the Buddha) on nearby mountains.

This fire represents the complicated Japanese religious culture written large and proud. It also marks the moment that the ancestral spirits — who are believed to visit the earthly realm during Obon — return back to the spirit realm.

daimonji

Photo by: Richard Murdey Onlookers enjoy the flames.

The festival itself starts at 8 p.m., with the lighting of the “大” character. After which the “妙” and “法” characters are lit at five-minute intervals. Stay in your seat after the characters are lit so as not to miss the last two displays — one in the shape of a boat and the other in the shape of a torii, or gateway to a shrine!

Drinking a cup of sake (Japanese rice wine) while the flaming characters are reflected in the cup, is believed to grant you protection from illness. Regardless of what angle you watch it from, the blaze itself is a singularly unique spectacle.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video of the fire in action. Enjoy!

Hiking Daimonji

The Daimonji mountain becomes a popular hiking destination both during the festivities and after.

Traveling up to the extinguished “大” offers you a chance to see the character with a great panoramic view over Kyoto. The view from the mountainside also provides a unique way to see famous sights such as the Philosopher’s Path.

Golden Hour at Daimonji, Kyoto

The view from Daimonji Mountain during Kyoto’s golden hour.

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Things To Know

Yearly Event

The Daimonji Festival takes place on Aug. 16. The fires are all alight at the same time after dusk from roughly 8 p.m.

Official site

https://www.kyokanko.or.jp/okuribi (Japanese)

How To Get There

Address

30 Ginkakujichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 606-8402, Japan

By bus

Getting to the Daimonji area requires taking the direct buses that run from Kyoto station. Gaijinpot recommends buses numbered 5, 17 or 100 which take about 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. Follow the directions for Ginkakuji.

Where To Stay

Kyoto - house / Vacation STAY 1099
  • Sakyo-ku Ginkakuji Mae-cho 17 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8407
  • 0.2 km
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Hostel Ginkakuji
  • Sakyo-ku Jyoudoji Nishidacho 58-2 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8417
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.6 km
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Matahari Annex Stay
  • Sakyo-ku Kitashirakawa Kubotacho 16-2 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8266
  • 8.3/10
  • 0.6 km
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Kyoto Guest House Kyo no En Nishiya
  • Sakyo-ku Kitashirakawashimobetto-cho 20-1 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8286
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.6 km
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