Yesterday was the final day of the Obon festival, where the dead, who have returned to earth during the last few days are sent off to the underworld again. In Kyoto, this sending off is celebrated with 5 enormous fires that are lit on mountains surrounding the city, called the Daimonji festival (or, officially, the Gozan-no-okuribi).

This year, I had wanted to go to Arashiyama to see the large torii, which is the only one of the five fires you cannot see from the city. However, I started a project in the afternoon and overlooked the time and because it takes about an hour from here to Arashiyama, I would not have made it on time to see the fire (each one only burns for 20 – 30 minutes or so.)

So, I decided to stay local and go to the myo-ho, which is not one, but two fires about 20 minutes from my apartment. They are on rather low mountains and other than the big dai on Mount Daimonji and the lovely boat-shaped funegata, I cannot see them from my balcony.

However, even here, I was too late because I underestimated the amount of people who would be in the area. The myo-ho fires can best be viewed from a little road that is usually completely devoid of traffic, but last night it was full with people! While I could see the first one of the fires, the ho, I was just a little bit too late to see the myo character. When I finally had made my way through all the people there, the fire had already gone out…

The "ho" character of the Daimonji festivalOh well, at least I could see the big dai and the funegata on my trip. And next year I know to either be very early, or to take a different road a bit further south where there are (hopefully) no people. Or maybe I’ll make it to Arashiyama to see the torii after all.