Obon – Bon Festival


Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom practiced to honor the spirits of the deceased. For three days, families reunite and clean the graves of their ancestors. They dance the Bon-Odori as a celebration of the return of their ancestor’s spirits. They complete the festival by sending candle-lit lanterns (toro nagashi) floating down a river to symbolize the journey of the spirits back to the land of the dead.

I participated in a Bon-Odori dance near Kawamoto. The feeling of the participants was one of light-hearted joy. The music included a taiko drum and men taking turns chanting.

I saw the toro nagashi while in Matsue. I also witnessed the prayers of families at the site of a congregation of priests. The priests were reading prayers while individuals approached a low table to pray, offer some yen, and sprinkle incense onto a burning coal.

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