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Published on Nov 8, 2008
WONG: Every year at the end of the Obon festival, Kyoto residents set bonfires in the surrounding mountains to conclude the Japanese holiday. Let's take a look.
STORY: During the Obon festival, departed ancestors are believed to return to their family altar. Families welcome the spirits and honor them during the three day holiday. On the final day, the spirits are sent back.
[Koutaro Matsubara, Cultural Preservation Committee Member]: Every August 16th, people celebrate the end of Obon Festival. Ancestral spirits who have passed away will come visit their family, and on the 16th they are sent back to the spirit realm. We do the 'Okuribi' to lead the ancestors back home.
Before the wood is burned in the bonfire, people write their prayers and wishes.
[Koutaro Matsubara, Cultural Preservation Committee Member]: People write prayers such as please keep our family safe and put the names of their ancestors on piece of wood. They then take the bundled wood into the mountain to be used for Okuribi.
Kyoto residents go to viewing spots to get a glimpse of the bonfires in the surrounding mountains. The fires are set in the shape of a boat, shrine gate, and the Chinese characters for great and law. Here we see the characters great and law."