8 Things You Must Know About Obon

If you’ve ever considered visiting Japan in the summer, you might have heard of Obon, or Bon Festival. Sometimes referred to as the Japanese Festival of the Dead, Obon is one of the most important Japanese festivals and is celebrated at the height of summer in mid-August. It is an important family holiday in Japan, where the Japanese people honor the spirits of their ancestors. 


Here are some things you might not have known about Obon! 


1. Obon is the 2nd most significant holiday after New Year’s Day


Obon lasts between four to five days, and during this period, many people travel back to their hometowns to pay their respects to their ancestors. As a result, it is one of the busiest (and most expensive!) travel periods in Japan. 


2. Obon is about honoring your ancestors and your loved ones who have passed away

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今日は父の日(゚∀゚)! そろそろお墓参りに行きたいと思っていたタイミングでめっちゃ晴れたので行ってきた☆ 祖母と父のお墓参り&ちーちゃんとももちゃん(うさぎ)の墓参りで2つの墓地行ってきたやー(•ө•)♡ 父は薔薇が好きだった(私の記憶ではね)なのでそれっぽいお花が入った、好きそうな色の仏花を選ぶようにしている! 1人でお墓掃除していたら近くのお墓にお参りをしに来ていた方に 「若いのに一人でお墓参り?えらいわねえ」って言われた\(^o^)/ うちは墓参り1人が基本で数年に一度集まっていくこともある程度だからな\(^o^)/(今年の年始に久しぶりに集まって行った) 特に父の日関係ないけど父の墓参り行ったから家族に報告したけど応答ないねヘ(゚∀゚ヘ)そんなもんだ。 #父の日 #父 #father #fathersday #墓参り #お墓参り #霊園 #墓地 #仏花 #薔薇 #バラ #rose この#花 たちが何て花かは詳しくないのでわからない。いつも雰囲気で選ぶ。 #pink #purple #独女の生態 #お一人様 で墓参り 年に数回しか行かない仏花を買うお店の方が覚えていてくれてほっこりする

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During Obon, the Japanese visit the graves of their deceased loved ones (a custom known as ohaka-mairi お墓参り) and clean up household altars. They also visit temples or shrines, or hire Buddhist priests to perform a memorial service known as hoyo or kuyo. Obon has sometimes been compared to Halloween or Day of the Dead, both of which are festivals that also have its roots in honoring departed souls. 


3. The Japanese light a small fire to guide spirits home

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。 今夜は 迎え火でご先祖様を お迎えします😊 。 おじいちゃん、おばあちゃんが 迷わないで帰ってこれるように❤️ 。 我が家でも 門の前で迎え火を します⭐︎👍 。 送り火は16日だったよね? 。 キュウリとナスの馬と馬車 昔は 母と作ったな❤️ 。 #japan #japanese #japanesegirl #japanesecalligraphy #お盆 #ご先祖様に感謝 #迎え火 #送り火 #書家 #書道 #書道家 #書家楓 #書道家楓 #アート書道 #アート書家楓 #写真と書 #和のデザイン #火の明かり #書道アート #書道パフォーマー #個展に向けて #個展準備 #ギャラリー準備中 #和の心 #和の空間

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If you walk around residential areas during Obon, you might see small fires in front of houses. Do not be alarmed! The Japanese believe that the spirits of their ancestors return to visit during Obon, so they light a flame known as mukaebi 迎え火 to help guide those spirits home. In more modern times, the open flames have been replaced with lanterns that utilize electric bulbs instead. 


4. They sometimes prepare special animals to help their ancestors’ spirits


To help their ancestors’ journey to and from the realm of the dead, some Japanese craft special animals out of vegetables! Cucumbers are used to create horses, which are said to help spirits return home as soon as possible, while eggplants are used to create cows that will take the spirits back slowly after the festival. 

5. The Bon Odori (Bon Dance) is performed to welcome spirits


Obon is not a solemn affair! The lively Bon Odori dancing has become almost synonymous with Obon festivals, and even summer festivals in general. This classic folk dance has many different variations, depending on where you are, with particular favorites being Hokkaido’s Soran-bushi and Tokyo’s Tokyo Ondo


6. Spirits are sent off with spectacular bonfire displays 

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【五山送り火】 . 8月16日は五山送り火✨ . pic1 . 昨日のストーリズのつづき😊 . 夕焼けがキレイなあの場所は広沢の池✨ . 夜のとばりが下りると流される灯籠🎶 . 20時20分 . 浮かび上がる鳥居形⛩️ . pic2 . 雲の合間からお月さんも顔を覗かせてます🌃 . pic3 . 昨日のストーリズにアップした夕焼けの別pic🌇 . どうぞ京都におこしやす。 . 【Gozan no Okuribi】 . In Kyoto, we will be home to our ancestors on August 14😊 . We spend time with our families, including our ancestors🎶 . On August 16, we will send our ancestors to the other world😊 . We will light the five mountains so that our ancestors can arrive to the other world🔥 . The shape is“大”、“妙”、“法”、A little bit smaller“大”、Shape of a boat“🚢”、“⛩️” . pic1 . This time I went to see the torii of Hirosawa pond⛩️ . The collaboration between the Lanterns and the Torii in the pond is a fantastic scene✨ . pic2 . The moon also peeps at the face from the clouds🌃 . pic3 . Evening glow of Hirosawa pond before fire is lit🌇 . I say to you that please come to Kyoto in Kyoto dialect, “Douzo Kyoto ni Okoshiyasu” . #京都 #そうだ京都行こう #京都観光 #京都旅行 #京都巡り #京都散策 #お盆 #送り火 #五山送り火 #鳥居形 #広沢池 #灯籠流し #kyoto #japan #unknownjapan #visitjapanjp #travel #trip #okuribi #gozannookuribi #torii

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At the end of Obon, bonfires are lit to help guide the spirits back to the realm of the dead. Particularly popular bonfire festivals include the Gozan Okuribi in Kyoto, which is a tourist hotspot. If you’re less inclined to jostle in the summer heat at a festival, some regions choose instead to pen messages on paper lanterns and float them on the river to guide the spirits away. 


7. Obon does not always happen in August

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お盆 | Obon Pt. 1 Obon is a Japanese ceremonial remembrance similar to “Pchum Ben” in the Khmer culture. Between the seasons of mid July and mid August, Japanese gather at local Buddhist temples to participate in Obon that is held to welcome the ancestors from the realm of hungry ghosts and honor them. During Obon, Japanese perform Bon Odori which is a style of dance that depicts various histories and specializations of coal miners, fishermen, etc. Through the years, Obon has turned more into a festival with booths of food, concessions, and other various activities that happen throughout the three day event. #obon #bonodori #japan #japanese #culture #festival #photography #taiko #soranbushi #wa #auburn #drums #yukata #learning #history #learnsomethingeveryday #canon #eventphotography #travel

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Depending on where you are in Japan, the festival is held at different times! While celebrating in August is the most common, some regions in eastern Japan celebrate a whole month earlier in July. There is also Kyu Bon, or Old Bon, celebrated in the northern part of the Kanto Region. It falls around the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. 


8. It is not a national holiday

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Japanese Obon festival!! #englishbulldog #bulldog #bulldogsofinstagram #dog #dogsofinstagram #obon #obonfestival #japaneseamerican

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You would think that a festival in Japan with as much significance as this would be a national holiday, but it is not! Even so, it is a summer holiday for students and many companies will take a few days off during this period. 


Is ZenMarket working during Obon? 

ZenMarket will keep working during the Obon holidays, which falls between 11th to 16th August 2019. However, as many stores, retailers, and other related services will be closed during some or all of these days, we expect slower activity during this period. There is likely to be delays in sending goods, packing, and registering parcel arrivals at the warehouse. Please keep this in mind when purchasing. 


That's all from us! Have you ever celebrated Obon before? Let us know on our social media channels below! 

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Article| 02/08/2019 | Japanese Culture