Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond

Daimonji, or properly, Gozan-no-Okuribi is a very fascinating and unique ceremonial event that occurs every August 16 in Kyoto. Five mountain sides around the city, with six Chinese character and pictogram shaped bonfires are burned. This happens at the end of the Bon Festival and the fires are intended to send off the spirits of visiting family members back to the spirit realm. (Like everything in Japan, there is a set schedule for returning spirits; they arrive the 13th and depart on the 16th.) These bonfires are huge, it is quite a dramatic send off!

Gozan-no-Okuribi (五山送り火) literally means ‘five mountain’ 五山 ‘send off fire’ 送り火.

I was kindly invited to this viewing party by a friend, the 16 generation owner of a workshop that makes cast iron ‘kettles’ for the Japanese tea ceremony, Mr Seiwamon Onishi. He was the guest of honor as he had recently made a kettle for the hosts, a religious organization.

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Hirosawa Pond with the Western Hills and Bamboo Forests in the Background

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Viewers Finding Sitting Places on the Pond Shore

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Torii Bonfire Mountain ( top center) - Notice Single Small Pilot Fire (orange speck)

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Bamboo Grove and Cherry Trees on Path to Villa Grounds

We made our way down this private pathway next to the pond to a huge grassy meadow tucked into the Western Hills of Kyoto. I never realized that such a space existed in Kyoto! We made our way across the meadow to a tea house on the shore of Hirosawa Pond and enjoyed a kaiseki ‘bento’ dinner as it got dark out. As it got dark we noticed boats out on the pond laying out paper lanterns. This custom is called toro nagashi in Japanese. Literally, it means ‘lantern flow’. Paper lanterns are let to flow in rivers and streams. I had not seen this custom first hand in Kyoto before.

Once it got completely dark, at 8:20 pm, the torii bonfire was lit. This bonfire is on the extreme west side of the city and is not almost impossible to see from anywhere else. I have seen the torii bonfire from the top of a 10 story building in downtown Kyoto, but we could barely see it. Seeing it up close, with the floating lanterns this year was a real treat!

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Hirosawa Pond Villa Grounds (This historic house was relocated from Shirakawa-go in Gifu.)

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Hirosawa Pond Villa and Meadow

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Hirosawa Pond Villa Tea House (Seiwemon Onishi on the right, is the guest of honor.)

The photos of the fire and lanterns are quite blurry as I didn’t have a tripod. Sorry!

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Okuribi Torii-gata (Shinto Shrine Gate Shaped Bonfire)

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Toro Nagashi Lanterns Floating on Hirosawa Pond

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

For reference, this is the iconic Daimonji bonfire on the East Mountains. (from this article last year)

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Torii-gata from afar, a downtown Kyoto rooftop in 2005.

Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Villa 嵐山広沢池 五山送り火鳥居形

Mr Onishi (center), Ms Onishi (left), Ms Tanaka and Your Humble Pilgrim (right) and Our Generous Hosts

Seiwemon Onashi and Onishi Seiwemon Museum
Mr Onishi is the 16th generation owner of the workshop and foundry that is more than 400 years old. Mr Onishi is one of the 10 craftsmen that is necessary to make the necessary tools and implements for the Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushakoji-senke Schools of Tea.

The Onishi Seiwemon Museum is located in central Kyoto on Sanjo Street, just west of the Karasuma and Sanjo streets intersection. The museum is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in traditional arts and crafts or the tea ceremony.

*The museum is often closed during summer and winter months, please check their website before going.
Onishi Seiwemon Museum website (English language)

The tea ‘kettles’ are used to heat the water for the tea ceremony which is then poured into the tea bowl with a bamboo ladle. These kettles are called ‘kama’ in Japanese.

ONISHI SEIWEMON MUSEUM

An Example of Mr Onishi's Work

ONISHI SEIWEMON MUSEUM

An Example of Mr Onishi's Predecessor's Work

SHARE! Kyoto Support Topic: Sightseeing in Kyoto

Tweet: Find out what’s going on in Kyoto right now, follow me on Twitter.

Article Links and Reference
Daimonji Okuribi Senbei and Kompeito (This KyotoFoodie article has a good explanation of Daimonji and some good photos of the other mountains too.)
Daimonji/Gozan no Okuribi Wikipedia article
Bon Festival Wikipedia article

2 Responses to “Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond”

  1. […] outlying districts of the city and the hosts gave each guest a box of this wonderful shiruko. Read this article on OpenKyoto about […]

  2. […] Kyoto Daimonji Viewing Party at Hirosawa Pond Hiking in Kyoto: Daimonji Yama (Mt. Daimonji) Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | View more Kyoto Postcards […]

Leave a Reply

ContactCopyright © OpenKyoto, All Rights Reserved.