Obon (お盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist–Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars.
Obon and ancestors’ spirits
Japanese people think that the souls of their family members who died come back on these days, so people go to the grave in the evening on the first day of the Bon Festival (13th) to welcome back departed souls.
They also used to light a small fire at the gate of their houses which is supposed to be a guide for departed souls.
The souls stay in their family’s’ house on the 14th and 15th, then go back to the afterworld on the 16th night. This time people light fires to speed the spirits back to the other world.
In Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakodate, and Kanazawa, Bon festival is held around July 15th, but it is held in August in other provinces.
It is from August 13th to 16th in the Kansai area this year (2021).
Floating Lanterns (Shoro-nagashi)
Floating lanterns for the spirits of the dead (shoro-nagashi / 精霊流し) is a custom in Nagasaki prefecture, Kumamoto city and Mifune town in Kumamoto prefecture at the end of Bon festival.
Bon Festival Dance (Bon-odori)
Bon festival dance (Bon-odori / 盆踊り) is the dance for welcoming and seeing off the departed souls.
Traditional Midyear Gift-giving (ochugen)
Traditional midyear gift-giving (ochugen / お中元) used to be the present for relatives when people visit them during bon season.
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