Category: A Buddhist tradition aimed at honoring one’s ancestors

@JOURNALEDGE

Obon festival – A Buddhist tradition aimed at honoring one’s ancestors.

Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. People believe that their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during Obon and pray for the spirits. For the reason, Obon is an important family gathering time, and many people return to their hometowns. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples.At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.Obon is observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month of the year, which is July according to the solar calendar. However, since the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Obon is still observed in mid August in many regions of Japan, while it is observed in mid July in other regions.The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons, accompanied by intensive domestic and international travel activities and increased accommodation rates. In recent years, travel activitiy in mid August has become somewhat more spread out and less concentrated, but it is still considerable on certain days. On the first day of Obon, chochin lanterns are lit inside houses, and people go to their family’s grave to call their ancestors’ spirits back home. It’s called mukae-bon. In some regions, fires called mukae-bi are lit at the entrances of houses to guide the spirits. On the last day, people bring the ancestor’s spirits back to the grave, hanging chochin painted with the family crest to guide the spirits. It’s called okuri-bon. In some regions, fires called okuri-bi are lit at entrances of houses to send the ancestors’ spirits. During Obon, the smell of senko incense fills Japanese houses and cemeteries.Toro nagashi (floating lanterns) is a tradition often observed during Obon. People send off their ancestors’ spirits with the lanterns, lit by a candle inside and floated down a river to the ocean. Also, bon odori (folk dance) is widely practiced on Obon nights. Styles of dance vary from area to area, but usually Japanese taiko drums keep the rhythms. People go to their neighborhood bon odori held at parks, gardens, shrines, or temples, wearing yukata (summer kimono) and dance around a yagura stage. Anyone can participate in bon odori, so join the circle and imitate what others are doing.