Obon: A festival for everyone

The Obon festival is an annual festival in Japan that pays homage to their deceased ancestors. According to Japanese beliefs, during the period of the festival, the spirits of the faithful departed will return to the land of the living to visit their relatives.

On the first day, Japanese hung Chochin lanterns (lanterns made of paper) in front of their houses and graves to call the spirits of their dead ancestors in a ritual called Mukae-bon. Obon dances are also offered to please the spirits. Obon Odori dances vary from each region and the rhythms are based on the beating of the Japanese Taiko drums. Most Obon dances are performed in parks and public places where people can join and participate.

Shin-bon-paper lantern,shin-bon-cyochin,katori-city,japan

During the last day of the Bon festival, Japanese visit the graves of their deceased ancestors and perform a ritual called Okuri-bon to help the spirits return to their final resting place. The said ritual is performed on all parts of Japan, but the customs slightly differ from one another.

Japanese Graveyard

The holiday is held from July or August 13 – 15, depending on the region from where it was commemorated. The Bon festival, as it is also known, is celebrated all around Japan. The popular festivals according to many are Daimonji Gozan Okuribi festival in Kyoto, Nagasaki Shoro Nagashi festival in Nagasaki and the Hokkai Bon Odori in Hokkaido.

Bon dance at Nagoya Port Festival

Alongside the festival, is a heinous scene of traffic, long lines at domestic and international airports and inflated accommodation rates. These are the obstacles everyone has to beat if they want to experience the fascinating holiday in Japan. Japanese do not look at it as obstacles but rather a passage that they have to undergo in order to pay respects to their dearly departed. Japanese honor their deceased ancestors and the sacrifices they made for us.

Japan - Takamatsu Awa Odori Bon Festival 05

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