What is "Gozain Okuribi" (Five Mountain Bonfires for Our Ancestors) ?

The bonfires that clearly light up on five mountains (Gozan) on the night of August 16 are well known nationwide traditional summer events together with the Gion Festival in July. Among the five bonfires, Daimonji of Nyoigatake, Sakyo-ward is best known. Four others are Myoho (on Nishi and Higashi-yama, also in Sakyo-ward), Funagata (Sailboat-shape, on Myoken-zan,Nishikamo, Kita-ward), Hidari(Left) Daomonji (Ohkitayama, Kita-ward) and Toriigata (on Sen-ouji-san,,Mantoro-yama,, Mandarasan,Saga Toriimoto, Ukyo-ward). Other than these it is believed that there used to be い-shape ( at Ichihaarano, Sakyo-ward), 一shape (at Narutaki, Ukyo-ward), a bamboo and a bell (or a sparrow)( on Nishiyama, Nishikyo-ward), a snake ( at Narutaki, Ukyo-ward) and Naginata (long sword,at Kannnonji, Ukyo-ward) in Edo period. Okuribi, Bonfires , are meant to speed the ancestors’ spirits back to heaven that have come back to this world welcomed by the Mukaebi. It is said that Okuribi has come to be popularly held with the spread of Buddhism among ordinary people, especially after Muromachi period. (Hayashiya Tatsusaburo 1960 etc) The present Five-mountain (Gozan) Bonfires are supposed to have been established around mid-Edo period. However, each of the five has different stories of the origins or histories and periods. Periods of origins vary from early Heian and of Kamakura, mid-Muromachi to early Edo. There being practically no written records, all these stories remain suppositions by the people of the later periods. Why aren’t there written records of these by the contemporary people? It is because these events are religious ones, based on ancestor worship and Buddhism, started and have been succeeded by beliefs of local people. Since they are not national or political events, they were hardly officially recorded. Even today these Bonfires are held as local people’s events by their hearty support. These Gozan Bonfires, Daimonji Okuribi, Matsugasaki Myoho Okuribi, Funagata Mantoro Okuribi, Hidari Daimonji Okuribi and Toriigata Taimatsu Okuribi , were registered as intangible folk cultural assets in October, Showa 58 (1983).

Gozan Map
Lighting Times of the Okuribi (Bonfires)

Every year on the evening of August 16, the Gozan Bonfires are lit as follows:

  • At 8 :00 p.m.Daimonji-Bonfire
  •  8 :05Matsugasaki Myoho-Bonfire
  •  8 :10Funagata Mantoro-Bonfire
  •  8 :15Hidari Daimonji-Bonfire
  •  8 :20Toriigata Taimatsu-Bonfire

Although there may be some delays depending on the weather, such as strong winds, each fire is lit for about 30 minutes.

To Everyone Watching the Bonfires
  1. Please do not use drones.

    In order to carry out the event and prevent any possible danger, no use of drones or similar flying objects wirelessly operated on that day.

  2. Please do not climb on these hills.

    On the Okuribi day no climbing these hills is allowed for fear of disturbing the lighting and possible danger.

  3. Please turn off the outdoor lights and advertise lights.

    In order to keep the religious atmosphere of the Bonfire, all outdoor lights be turned off for 1hour, from 7:50 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. except Yamashina-ward and Fushimi-ward.

  4. In case of rivers rising, please do not get into river banks to prevent dangers.

About Gozan Okuribi Rengokai

Gozan Okuribi Rengokai (Gozan Okuribi Preservation Association) consists of Specialized NPO Daimonji Hozonkai, Public Service Incorporated Foundation Matsugasaki Risshokai, Funagata Mantoro Hozonkai, Hidari Daimonji Hozonkai and Toriigata Taimatsu Hozonkai. 

 The association was organized for the purpose of contribution to the development of Kyoto tourism by preserving the traditional folk events smoothly and handing them down to the future generation.


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Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan



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