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5 Things You Must Know About Japan’s Obon Festival

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Obon is an annual three-day festival dedicated to honoring deceased ancestors, as many Japanese believe their ancestors’ spirits visit them after death.

Although the dates vary according to the calendar observed, the festival is usually held in mid-July or more commonly in mid-August.

Obon is one of Japan’s biggest festivals, so it’s a busy time for travel, so book public transport and hotels well in advance.

The festival originated in India 500 years ago – the word Obon comes from Sanskrit Obonwhich means “hanging upside down” – a painful experience.

Buddhists believe that Mokuren, a close disciple of the Buddha, saw the spirit of his deceased mother in the world of hungry ghosts. Mulian was very depressed to see his mother was thin, thirsty and suffering, so he asked Buddha for help how to help her. The Buddha advised Mulian to make offerings to Buddhist monks, which he did, and his mother returned to a better world—Mulian danced with joy.

Today, on the first day of the Obon festival, Japanese people return home to visit the graves of family members and relatives. They clean graves, lay flowers, hang lanterns on them, and guide the spirits of deceased family members home.

Some people also hang lanterns outside their homes or light bonfires near their homes. It is also common practice to donate fruit, candles, incense or other gifts to altars in temples or to display them at home.

Gozan no Okuribi (or Daimonji) takes place in Kyoto. Five piles of 200m long bonfires were lit on the hills around the city.the bonfire forms the japanese word for “big” as well as a shape Torii The gate that marks the entrance to the shrine.

While the Obon festival honors the dead, it’s by no means a gloomy festival. Across the country, people celebrated with street food stalls, fireworks, Taiko drum Drums and local songs.Dances are also held in parks and temples, with performers wearing bathrobe (cotton kimono) and able (wooden flip flops). Dance moves often mimic traditions, such as throwing bales of rice like farmers.

The Awa Odori dance in Tokushima, Shikoku is one of the largest and liveliest Obon dance events in Japan, attracting 1.5 million spectators in grandstand seats.

Meanwhile, Gujo Odori is held in Gujo in central Japan. Designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Japanese government, the month-long festival begins in mid-July and specifically on August 13, when singers and musicians sit on floats and play taiko drums, bamboo flutes and musical instruments 10 songs. shamisen (three-string banjo). The songs are accompanied by dances that begin at night and continue until dawn.

In Nagasaki, on the southern island of Kyushu, Obon celebrations include, in addition to singing and dancing, a parade of boats with lanterns to the accompaniment of gongs and drums. It is believed that during “Shoro Nagashi”, boats can carry the spirits of ancestors from their homeland to heaven. At the end of the parade, the boats were wrecked.

On the final day of Obon, people float candles in paper lanterns in rivers, lakes and oceans to guide spirits back to their world in a ritual known as Obon. Chestnut basin.

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