August 11, 2023
What is Obon?
Obon is a traditional Japanese festival that honors and remembers the spirits of deceased ancestors. It is one of the most significant and widely celebrated festivals in Japan. The festival usually takes place between 13th to 16th of August, but the dates can vary based on the region. Ikeuchi Japan is also closed during these days.
During Obon, it is believed that the spirits of ancestors return to the earthly realm to visit their living relatives. Families clean and decorate their homes, and altars with offerings of food, drinks, and incense are set up to welcome the spirits. Lanterns are often lit on water or land to guide the spirits back to the world of the living.
One of the most well-known aspects of Obon is the Bon Odori dance, which is a traditional dance performed during the festival. People gather at community centers, temples, and other public places to dance in a circle, following specific dance patterns and rhythms. The Bon Odori dances vary from region to region and often have a festive and joyful atmosphere.
Sending off spirits
Another important tradition during Obon is the sending off of spirits. At the end of the festival, a fire or a lantern ceremony is held to symbolically guide the spirits back to the spirit world. This varies by region as well, with some areas using lanterns that are floated on rivers or released into the sea.
Part of the tradition is to prepare food for the ancestors. In some regions, its a tradition to make “spirit horses” (shouryouma) out of cucumbers and aubergines. The cucumber horse is made for the ancestors’ journey to the earthly realm, and the aubergine horse is made for their journey back to the spirit world.
Mountain day is a national holiday in Japan and is celebrated on the 11th of August. This holiday was introduced in 2016 and has become a natural extention of the “obon week.” On mountain day, people often go hiking in the mountains and take time to appreciate the many gorgeous mountain views in Japan.
Obon is not only a time to remember and honor ancestors but also a time for family reunions and community gatherings. It’s a period when many people return to their hometowns to be with their families and participate in the festivities.
Overall, Obon is a deeply rooted cultural event in Japan that combines religious and social elements, bringing together communities to celebrate and remember their ancestors in a spirit of unity and togetherness.