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Gozan no Okuribi and Thoughts Inspired by Climbing Daimonji mountain

As today was the day 五山の送り火 (Gozan no Okuribi), I decided to write about the 大文字山 Daimonji moutain.

But first of all - what is "Gozan no Okubiri"?

五山の送り火 (Gozan no Okuribi)

"Go" stands for "five", and "zan" (san) for mountain. So, "five mountains". "okuri" comes from "okuru" to send and "bi" stands for "hi"which means fire. So, it is a fire to send something or someone. So far, so good. But what or who does it send?

In Japan, there is a festival every year called "O-bon". It is believed that ones ancestor's souls decend from the mountains during o-bon season to visit their families.

In Kyoto, every year on August 18th, "Gozan no Okuribi" is held to escort the souls back to the mountains. Surrounding Kyoto, there are five mountains with kanji or respectively ancient family symbols on them. On that day starting from 8pm there are fires that lit up the characters/symbols. It is very spectacular and famous throughout Japan.

This year however, in order to prevent the spreading of corona virus, there were much less fires. Only on the most important mountain, Daimonjiyama, it was possible to see the character 大. The other four mountains had only one single fire.

But even though these efforts were made, still a lot of people gathered and stood close to each other. We tried to avoid the crowed and went to a location with less people and kept our distance. I guess because it was the first and will probably be the only time with such few fires everyone wanted to see it.

Thoughts Inspired by Climbing the Daimonji Mountain

In the end of June I climbed the Daimonji mountain for the first time and it was HELL lol. Actually it is a pretty small mountain that even eldery people climb and it doesn't take long at all, max. 1hour. But since I hate cardio exercise and therefore all sports I do are yoga and going for long walks, I didn't have any endurance at all.

The mountain is a little bit steep and has many stairs. The way is never flat for longer than just a few meters which I'm not used to at all.

As, how I mentiond, I don‘t do cardio exercises, my heart rate went up like crazy and my legs felt heavy very quickly. Even eldery people passed us and cheered us on with "Ganbatte!" (Give your best!), that's how weak we were lol.

But, we didn't give up and climbed many more times. And with each time we did, we needed less breaks and had less muscle pain. And this week, we finally were able to climb up without any breaks at all! It's just a small accomplishment but I'm happy about it.

While challenging myself, there were a few things I realized. Of course I did not get enlightened to these ideas for the first time while hiking. That'd be kinda ridiculous lol I knew them before, but while hiking I remembered them and found them to really be true. I think any challenge, even a small one can make you remember these ideas.

They are:

  1. Don't give up, no matter how hard it is. You can do it and you're going to make progress.

  2. Don't compare yourself to others. There were many people climbing the mountain without problems even though they were much older than me. But everyone is different, everyone has different experiences and backgrounds. They probably were doing more sports than me in general.

  3. Take your time. It doesn't matter how fast you reach your goal.

  4. When you think you can't anymore, push a little more. You'll be surprised by how strong you actually are.

  5. When you think it's too hard and you can't any more, most times it is just mental. If you keep pushing you'll see that you actually aren't as exhausted as you think. Your mind makes it harder than it actually is. For example because the first time I climbed the mountain I was so weak, the next times I still I thought "My legs are heavy, I need a break", although I was stronger already. When I put my awareness on my legs I realized that it is not actually the case, they were just fine.

  6. It's okay to take breaks when you really need them. They help you not give up and you'll need less breaks next time.

If you come to Kyoto, I recommend climbing it! It's very accessable (Right by Ginkakuji temple) and doesn't take long - less than 1,5 hours. If you are fitter than me (which you probably are lol), it'll be an easy short hike :)

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