Higashi Otani Mantoe Festival

Obon (お盆) is the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to their family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves.  During this time, the ancestor’s spirits are supposed to revisit the household altars.

During Obon, many people typically visit their ancestors’ graves. I decided to follow a lot of local people and visit a favorite off the beaten path spots in Kyoto — Higashi Otani, one of the most dramatic cemeteries in Japan. Great views and a good opportunity to see how the Japanese tend to their lost loved ones. The Higashi-Otani Mausoleum sets thousands of lanterns for people visiting their ancestors’ graves, and needless to say, this attracts numerous photographers.

The Mantoe festival (which means 10.000 lanterns ceremony) lasts for three days, and I first went there on the opening day, July 14th. On that day, I wasn’t happy with the gears I brought along (I wanted a wider angle) and I decided to return the following day.  But then it rained. Luckily enough, the rain almost cleared as I was taking my photos and I liked the saturation of the few colors around as well as the humidity and the mist left in the air as it helps create this very special atmosphere.