Je vous souhaite d'aimer ce qu'il faut aimer et d'oublier ce qu'il faut oublier.

Je vous souhaite des passions. Je vous souhaite des silences. Je vous souhaite des chants d'oiseaux au réveil et des rires d'enfants.

Je vous souhaite surtout d'être vous.

Jacques Brel (part of "le droit de rêver")


Short Lifecycle

During the Obon period all of Japan was moving to be at their homes. I have chosen this time to be in Kyoto to celebrate the Daimonji Okuribi(¹). I just arrived in Japan when the spirits (good and bad) were on earth.

On the 16th of August I was in Nara and after that I went immediately to Uzumasa station in Kyoto. There I was goig to meet some people from the guesthouse. They also wanted to see the bonfires like I was. Nobody was there. Fortunately there were 2 stations with this name, so I moved to the other one. I stopped some policeman on a motorcycle and I didn’t let him go until I understood where this station was situated. Finally I arrived to the other station and waited as well, but nobody came. .

I had more than 1 hour to be there, but I didn’t know at all how to move from where I was to the place where these guys (from the guesthouse) wanted to see the bonfires. Imagine: I was at the busstation, I didn’t know where I was, which way to go, how to reach my distination, but I had a plan of Kyoto. In addition there was an old fantastic woman (who was waiting for the bus) who tried to help me. We asked to people about the bonfire, but nobody could help us. At that moment I was just feeling so lost in translation that I started to be a little emotional. This old woman was there and she tried to calm me, but at that time I was still lost. Finally her bus came and I was completely again, alone with the spirits, the sun and the humidityJ. I decided to stay where I was and to remain calm and relaxed. I knew I would find it.

Suddenly 2 Japanese young tourists (coming out of nowehere) sat next to me. It was a mixture of punky/ hip hop style with some gold colour in their hair. I started to ask them if they knew some place in Kyoto where we can have a good view of the Daimonji Okuribu. They started to take a look at their documentation about Kyoto and they suggested me to go to the Funaokayama Park. I opened my map and I went in the direction of this park.

At the moment I got off of the bus for the final destination, an older women started talking to me in English. She looked at me and asked me if I spoke Spanish? Uhhhh?? Yes of course and so I started to have a Spanish guide who took care of me for a couple of minutes. She told me how to get to my destination. This was amazing to be able to talk in Spanish in some area in the centre in Kyoto!!! I had the feeling that the spirits of my grandmother and my father were taking care of me.

There were so many people going to this park. I was the only person who was not Japanese.

I followed the people upstairs until we reached the top of the park. From there you could see the east, west and north of Kyoto. In the park you could see friends, family and tourists like me. Some people brought some food and alcohol and tried to find a nice place while waiting for the big moment.

I started to talk with 2 students who where there for the same reason as me. I asked them if I could join them for this special evening and so we waited together. As I said before, during the Obon period spirits of families’ ancestors are said to return to the family home. You have welcome fires (mukaebi = welcoming fire) and Daimonji (the kanji: dai means: great or large) Okuribi (sent back the spirit word with “seeing off fire”).

The fireworks started in the east. You have to imagine everyone running to take a picture. All the hands with mobile phones taking pictures. Hiro- san (one of the two students) explained me that when the fire is on, you can see the spirits through the fireworks. When the smoke starts, the spirits leave the earth to go back to the other world. And so we were there waiting until the fireworks went off and the smoke rose to the skies. In Buddhsm what counts most is the fact that we treat the return of our ancestral spirits with honor and genuine hospitality.

It was a magic night for all of us.

(¹)The folks in Kyoto burn words and pictures into the mountainsides. The media and the tourist guides always show the dai character , but more that one hillside is set on fire that night. There are also bonfires on four other mountains—two parts of the same mountain have the two kanji for myoho, or Buddha’s Law, another mountain has a smaller dai kanji, a bonfire in the shape of a ship burns on a fourth mountain, and the last bonfire is in the shape of a torii, the gateway to Shinto shrines.These fires are large enough to be seen throughout the city. Each kanji stroke ranges from 80 to 160 meters in length. Pine branches are used to set the fires, and there are 75 separate fire sources for the larger dai kanji alone. That figure is ignited at 8:00 p.m., with the others following immediately after. (Japan guide overview).

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