O-bon (The Buddhist festival of the dead) - August 13 - 15

What's the meaning of this event?
This is a Buddhist event, O-bon, occurring from the 13th to 15th of August to hold a memorial service to the spirits of ancestors. Because the spirits of the dead are said to return at this time, this is a festival for welcoming them home, making offerings to them and holding memorial services. In this season, in spite of huge crowds, many people want to return back to hometowns like New Year season.

Many people celebrate this event. Because in Japan ancestors are objects of profound veneration and are believed to have a supernatural power over the living. However, it depends on their religions.

What do people do on this day?
Fires are lit at the entrances to homes so the spirits of ancestors do not lose their way, and, in addition to lanterns being lit inside homes, the Buddhist family alters are tidied up and vegetables and fruit are set out as offerings. And when O-bon is over, the spirits are sent on their way by fires to speed their seeing off at entrances of homes.

Are there objects associated with this event?

Bon-odori (Bon dance)
This is not an object, but it is related to this event very much. The O-bon Festival folk dances (bon-odori) are held in various parts of the country. A scaffold is set up on the grounds of shrines and temples, or in parks and squares, or in the streets, and people dressed in informal cotton kimono for summer wear (yukata) dance around it to the folk songs sung and played by the folk musicians.

Yukata (Informal cotton kimono for summer wear)
On one hand, most regular kimonos are made with silk, on the other hand, Yukata is made with cotton, and wore only in summer. People prefer wearing Yukata especially on the nights of Bon-odori, fireworks display, and various kinds of summer festival, although usually only women wear Yukata, but men.

Hanabi (Fireworks display)
Fireworks display (Hanabi-taikai) constitute a typical summer scene. In summer, fireworks displays occur throughout Japan. Because Japanese summers are hot and humid, these are appropriately lively gatherings for amusement on nights when one is unable to sleep.

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Date last modified: Tuesday, 05-Mar-2002 16:50:01 EST
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