The Bon Festival is coming soon.
 —Around August 13-16(or 11-16).

Travelers!
Take notice of that the annual rush of travelers
during this period occurs all over Japan,
with roads, train stations and airports congested as people headed for their hometowns and other destinations.

Japan has a holiday period called "Obon."

This “Obon”, as well as being a religious event to commemorate the souls of ancestors, has the air of a national holiday, with many people traveling around the country and, for those not aware of Buddhist practices, the Obon around August 15th is just a summer vacation, though most people throughout the country maintain the tradition of visting family graves.

  As Summer Holiday (It is not marked to the calendar in Japan)

Though it depends on the company, most close for three to five days on and around August 15th,
the middle of the Bon festival, taking this Bon festival holiday as their summer holidays.

  "Mountain Day"

And the remarkable thing is a new National Holiday named "Mountain Day" is held on 11th of August.
It is marked by red on Japanese calendars, as a first-class national holiday.
Therefore many company may start their holiday from 11th and close longer than ever before.

More about “Obon” as Bon Festival.

Japanese get used to calling "Obon" rather than "Bon".
This is a Buddhist event occurring from the 13th to 16th of August to hold a memorial service to the spirits of ancestors.
Because the spirits of the dead are said to return at this time, fires are lit at the entrances to homes so the spirits do not lose their way, and, in addition to lanterns being lit inside homes, the Buddist Family alters are tidied up and vegetables and fruits are set out as offerings.
And when Obon is over, the spirits are sent on their way. This is called the escorting of the spirits and fires to speed their seeing off are lit at entrances of homes for Bon festivals. And in some regions, "Toro Nagashi" which is also referred to as "Shoryo Nagashi" is also a ritual where people hold a memorial service for sending off the spirits of the deceased by floating paper lanterns and other offerings in a river or in the sea.

"Gozan-Okuribi" — Daimonji Bon Fire

The escorting of the spirits with fires is called “Okuribi” (Bon Fire) in Kyoto.
And “Gozan” means five mountains in Japanese.
Gozan no Okuribi (bonfire) held on the evening of August 16 is the *Kyotian way of sending off ancestors’ spirits and is one of Kyoto’s symbolic religious ceremonies in summer.
It is said that Gozan no Okuribi became an annual event after the Muromachi and Edo periods (15c-17c).

* "Kyotian" means: a pure Kyoto citizen. The way, thoughts, values,and taste of the like-Kyoto.  

Gozan-Okuribi consists of five different characters
on five mountains:

 1)“Daimonji” (large), 2)“Myoho” (Buddha’s remarkable teaching), 3)“Funagata” (ship), 4)“Hidaridaimonji” (large on Mt. Hidaridaimonjiyama)“ and  Toriigata” (shrine gate).
These five characters are lit off one after another from 8 p.m.

DAIMONJIDainojiE1a

The character of "Dai" 
means large.

The time lit off: 8:00 PM 
         (about 20 min)

Myo - Ho

These two characters — "Myo" and "Hou" make one word meaning the "Buddha's remarkable teaching."

Why two mountains?
In fact, these characters are placed on adjacent but different mountains (hills). However, we count them one mountain because two make one important word (meaning).

The time lit off: 8:05 PM

Funagata

Figure of a ship

The time lit off: 8:10 PM

Hidari-Daimonji

Figure of  the character of "Dai"

"Hidari" means Left in Japanese. 

The time lit off: 8:15 PM

Torii gatatop

Figure of a shrine gate

The time lit off: 8:20 PM

Toro-Nagashi is also held 

       at  Arashiyama.
    7:30PM to 9:00PM

Popular viewing spots

The map below shows the place of Five Mountains and our recommended viewing spots colored-marked respectively.

GozanViewing_2016

Some or All

If you want to view some or all characters at one spot, we suggest to go to Funaokayama or Aeon Mall Kyoto Gojo. Kyoto station building and Kyoto tower building are also recommended, but for this year they already have closed the reception.

  • Funaokayama (Funaoka Yama) : Daimonji, Myoho, Funagata, HidariDaimonji.
    You need move around to the best spots for each. Get off at the bus stop "Funaokaya".
  • Aeon Mall Kyoto Gojo : Daimonji, Toriigata, HidariDaimonji,  (doubtfully Myoho and Funagata)
    This is a huge shoping center. Aeon Mall Kyoto Gojo http://kyotogojyo-aeonmall.com/
  • JR Kyoto Station, Sky Way:  All mountains. 
    The application in advance was required by June 19.   
    https://www.kyoto-station-building.co.jp/gozan/
  • Kyoto Tower Building:  All mountains. 
    A dinner reservation was required(JPY 21,000). Already sold out. 
    https://www.kyoto-tower.co.jp/tower_hotel/event/2016/04/post_1.html

In downtown Kyoto, if you have the building higher enough than others around where you are allowed to go up the roof floor, try to get up there. You may see some mountains. And of course, you also have many possibilities at hotels and restaurants, beer gardens on a roof floor. It is very fun to find your own place for viewing. Enjoy!