Obon Festival

Obon Festival in Japan

Obon festival is a Japanese custom where Japanese people honor their ancestors’ spirits. It is a Buddhist-Confucian tradition during which families gather to their family homes and visit the graves of their dead ancestors.

In most places in Japan, Obon festival starts somewhere in the middle of August, usually celebrations start on the 13th of August and last until the 16th. But in most parts of Tokyo, Obon is celebrated in July instead. While it’s not a public holiday, many employers tend to give a leave to their workers to let them celebrate. Smaller Obon celebrations also take part in several other countries, including China, Malaysia and United States.

During the three days of celebrations, people clean their homes and put out food for the spirits in front of the altar. Flower arrangements and laterns are also placed there. People light chochin laterns and visit their ancestor’s graves to ask the spirits to come home. Sometimes fires are lit in front of homes to help ancestors find their way home. On the last day of celebrations, ancestors are guided back to the grave. Floating laterns that are called Toro nagashi, are lit and sent floating on a river that takes them to the ocean. This is done to send the ancestors’ spirits off.

There is a traditional folk dance (bon odori) that is widely seen on Obon festival nights. People go to parks, nearby temples, gardens and other public places wearing their yukatas and dance bon odori. Everyone is welcome to join in and dance moves are easily remembered. This dance is slightly different in each region, music can also vary.

In a lot of places, celebrations also include big festivals and huge carnivals with games, rides and traditional festival food. The festival ends with floating of thousands of laterns and culminates with a big fireworks show.

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Other festivals that may interest you

Coming of age festival

Tanabata festival

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