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A traditional bonfire festival in Kyoto, western Japan, was held Sunday night on a smaller scale than usual due to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

In the Gozan no Okuribi festival, held every year on Aug. 16, firewood arranged in the shape of symbols and kanji characters is set on fire on mountains.

The religious ritual is meant to send off the spirits of ancestors that have visited their descendants during the Bon holiday period.

This year’s event was held with a smaller number of bonfires than usual.

At 8 p.m., spectators cheered as a fire was lit on Mount Nyoigatake in the Higashiyama district.

“It is the first time I have seen Gozan no Okuribi,” said a 72-year-old housewife watching the ritual from near a bridge while wearing a face mask. “I came to bid farewell to my ancestors.”

“I hope the coronavirus (epidemic) dies down next year,” she added.

The ceremony was live-streamed on YouTube.

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