Whoever did this made a “big” mistake.

As we reported previously, Kyoto’s annual Gozan no Okuribi ceremony, in which massive shapes are made using several bonfires on mountainsides, has been drastically reduced this year to prevent large crowds from gathering and potentially spreading COVID-19.

▼ How the fires look during normal times.

The first and foremost shape is the Daimonji in which 75 bonfires are lit in the shape of the kanji for “large.” This year, however, only six bonfires were planned to be used on 16 August.

So, it was literally a big surprise for many in Kyoto when what appeared to be the full symbol appeared in its traditional location on the night of 8 August. The shape seemed to be made out of electric lights of some sort and first appeared at about 11 p.m. lasting for about 50 minutes.

▼ News report showing the unauthorized Daimonji lights

Some residents were delighted by the sudden appearance, but organizers of the Gozan no Okuribi were angered. The fires have been traditionally lit at the end of the Obon season to help send off the spirits of visiting ancestors as they return to the other side until next year.  

On the spiritual side of things, lighting the fires before the Obon season even begins would be rather confusing to the inbound spirits of deceased relatives. It’d be like turning off all the lights in the house just as your guests were pulling up the driveway.

On the material end, the official Daimonji organizers are also largely families who own the land on which the fires are lit, and although they allow people to freely hike in those mountains, they probably don’t take kindly to people drawing giant logograms all willy-nilly.

Many others also expressed deep anger over the act according to comments.

“This is a desecration of a sacred tradition. I hope the Kyoto police make the identity of these people public.”
“I thought they had a change of heart but this is much worse.”
“When I was in elementary school we all took a trip to the mountain to learn the importance of the fires. This is offensive to everyone who cares about Gozan no Okuribi.”
“I wonder what the exact crime is here. It’s important to know to help prevent copycats.”
“I thought it was a nice surprise. I don’t know why everyone is so angry about it.”
“These fires aren’t just festivals, they are important rituals to honor the dead. Kyoto people were raised to believe this and are really offended.”
“If they like this stuff so much, why don’t we burn the kanji into their foreheads.”

That last one is probably excessive, but aside from the brief moment of whimsy this unexpected “fire” brought to a few people, it certainly was a display of poor judgement overall.

That being said, it seems that whoever did this had good intentions and was just trying to make people happy. It was actually a really good idea too to have the lights come at an unexpected but more appropriate time so that they can be enjoyed in their full glory but also avoid crowds. This is just one of those rare cases where it probably would have been easier to ask permission than to ask forgiveness.

Source: Sankei News, My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
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