Obon period in Japan お盆
The feast of souls - from August 13th to 15th
In Japan, Obon is the quintessential summer holiday. In addition to family gatherings to honor their ancestors, the Japanese take advantage of this time to participate in many local and regional festivals (matsuri).
Japan's perception of death is not exactly the same as in the West. The loss of a loved one means the renewal of their soul. The Obon festival reflects this mindset. The country pays tribute to the dead during this time. Of Buddhist origin, this celebration draws its essence from an Indian legend. A young man saw in his dreams his deceased mother in incredible pain. To relieve her pain, the man prayed and laid a meal on the tomb of his mother. The next night he saw his mother again, but this time she was happy and relieved.
A very coded ritual
During this period each family decorates the altar of their house, called a butsudan, with certain offerings such as incense, flowers or fruits depending on the region. Obon is also a family gathering. City dwellers in particular benefit from these holidays as they return to their hometowns to understand more about their roots. But even those who don't go home do not miss the Bon-Odori, thetraditional dances associated with this event. In schoolyards and parks people built temporary towers called yagura from which singers and musicians play traditional music. Around town people dress in yukata (summer kimono) and perform the Bon-Odori dance. The atmosphere is always great for children to learn the dances just by imitating others! Depending on local customs, rhythm and choreography may change, but in general, everybody does similar dances. Contests are even held to choose the best group of dancers where up to a hundred can participate.
In some areas, the date of Obon is still on the lunar calendar in mid-July, but August tends to be the most common.
Precautions during Obon
The Obon week in mid August is one of three major seasons of travel and is a period of intense traffic. Japanese empty the cities to return to their families or go on a trip, giving rise to significant travel starting around 11th and 12th and return around 15th and 16th of August. If you travel to Japan at this time, it is recommended that you plan and book your transportation and your accommodations well in advance.