Daimonji Gozan no Okuribi (also known as the “Daimonji Festival”) is a bonfire festival held on 16 August each year which sees five fires lit on the mountains around Kyoto. The festival is a culminating event of the obon holiday in Japan, where the spirits of ancestors are said to visit the homes of their living relatives. The fires of the Daimonji Festival are said to guide these spirit back to the heavens at the end of their short stay.
The street lights of Kyoto are turned off at 8pm and the first fire (in the shape of the character for “big”, 大) is lit, following which two other characters, a boat, and a torii gate are set alight, each burning for about 30 minutes. These fires can be seen throughout Kyoto City but the banks of Kamo River are the recommended spot to see the “dai” bonfire.