Daimonji Festival is one of the three famous festivals in Kyoto. At 8pm on August 16, five giant bonfires are lit on five mountains.
Two of the fires, measuring up to 160m, form the Chinese character dai, meaning large. One forms the characters Myo-ho, wondrous teaching of Buddha, one the shape of a boat, and the last the shape of a torii gate.
The largest dai is lit first, with the next 4 being lit at 10 minute intervals.
The origins of this ancient festival are unclear, but it is believed that the spirits of ancestors come back to their homes during this period, called obon. Fires are lit to send the ancestors’ spirits back at the end of obon.