by Ewa Nowogorski
Obon is a favorite holiday in Japan that is celebrated in late August or early September to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. It is a Buddhist holiday, and although most Japanese people are not religious, almost everyone celebrates this holiday grandly, and they use this time as an opportunity to visit their parents and hometowns, and enjoy some festivities. People will visit their ancestors’ graves and clean it, put up altars in their home to worship them, and generally eat nicer than usual dishes.
Depending on the region, the actual festival is celebrated a little bit differently, but it usually lasts 3 days and there is a dance called the Bon odori that is performed. There are yummy food stalls, lanterns, and beautiful lit floats paraded around for the festival, and people gather in the thousands to be a part of it all.
The way in which the dance is performed is also different in each region, though the typical Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a yagura. The yagura is usually also the bandstand for the musicians and singers of the Obon music. Some dances proceed clockwise, and some proceed counter-clockwise around the yagura.
Like with most festivals and holidays, the deeper meanings behind the rituals performed during Obon are slowly being forgotten among the younger generations, and the holiday is slowly becoming just another festival for people to enjoy and let loose.