O Obon (お 盆) or simply (Bon) is an annual Buddhist event to commemorate your (late) ancestors. It is a Buddhist custom in Japan to honor the spirit of its dead ancestors. According to Buddhist customs, family members gather during Obon's holiday in their homeland, visit and clean the tombs. The belief is that ancestral spirits return home during Obon's day to reunite with their relatives. This is a custom celebrated in Japan for over 500 years and one of the traditional activities is dance known as Bon Odori.

Obon 1

Lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide ancestral spirits, and at the end of Obon, floating lanterns are placed on rivers, lakes and seas to guide spirits back to their world. The customs followed vary greatly from region to region.

The Obon Festival lasts about 3 days, but the start date may vary by region. Obon, despite being called the HOLIDAY is not an official holiday, meaning many establishments are still operating normally, in Japan every National holidays marked in red calendars, this also happens with long holidays such as the end of the year (Golden Week). In OBON, it is not marked in red because each region has different dates.

But by tradition, most people usually take time off on those dates to visit family. During the second and third day of Obon, families following the tradition will invite a Buddhist priest to their home (or visit a temple or sanctuary).

When the lunar calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the Meiji era, the locations in Japan responded differently, resulting in three different times, Obon festival. The Shichigatsu Bon (Bon in July) is based on the solar calendar and is celebrated around July 15 in eastern Japan (Kanto region such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Tohoku). Hachigatsu Bon (Bon of August), based on the lunar calendar, is celebrated around 15 August, being the most celebrated.

Obon Traditions

Before the holiday begins, the Japanese clean their homes and place a variety of food offerings, such as vegetables and fruits, for the spirits of their ancestors in front of a Buddhist altar.

  • Obon's first day, chochin lanterns (made of paper) are lit inside the houses, and people carry the lanterns to their family's graves to summon the spirits of their ancestors back home.
  • Second day, folklore day, which is the day of the Bom Odori dance. Dance styles vary from region to region, accompanied by Japanese Taiko drums. Obon's dance is in parks or shrines, wearing summer kimono, where dancers perform around a YAGURA stage. Anyone can participate in the dance.
  • Third day, the lanterns are placed on the river that flows into the ocean to guide the spirits around their world.

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