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Kyoto bonfire ritual's flaming characters burn in full for 1st time in 3 yrs

"Daimonji," or the character for "dai" (large), is created with flames on a hillside during the Gozan Okuribi bonfire ritual in the city of Kyoto on Aug. 16, 2022. (Mainichi/Kazuki Yamazaki)

KYOTO -- Bonfire displays on the hillsides surrounding Kyoto were shown in their complete form for the first time in three years at the Gozan Okuribi ritual on the evening of Aug. 16.

    The traditional event, held to send off the spirits of ancestors that are said to revisit during the obon holiday, was held in full this summer, following two years of scaled-back events under the coronavirus pandemic. Many people gathered to watch the revived flames.

    In 2020 and 2021, the shapes of flaming kanji characters and symbols were incomplete as the mountains were lit using drastically fewer ignition sites to prevent the crowding of tourists, workers and others. The Gozan Okuribi Preservation Association carried out the bonfire ritual in its usual form this year in order to pass on the skills to preserve the event for future generations.

    On the day, thunder and rain stopped right before "Daimonji," or the kanji character for "dai" (large), was lit on the hillside of Mount Nyoigatake in the Higashiyama area, a bit past 8 p.m. This was followed by the emerging displays of the characters for "myoho" (meaning "mystery" or "the law of Buddha"), a depiction of a boat, another "dai" character, and a depiction of a Shinto torii gate.

    (Japanese original by Kazuki Yamazaki, Osaka Photo Department)

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