Bon festival in Japan
Welcoming and escorting the spirits of ancestors
Hi. I’m Yukako who lives in the northern part of Europe, and teaches and tells people about Japanese traditional culture such as tea ceremony, kimono, etc. offline and online.
Japan has a holiday period called Obon. This is a Buddhist event occurring from the 13th to 16th of August to hold a memorial service to the spirits of ancestors. It is because the spirits of the dead are said to return at this time. What we usually do for welcoming these spirits is to keep lighting fires at the entrances to homes to lead the spirits to their way, and we also keep lanterns being lit inside homes. I remember my grandma set up many colourful lanterns (we used electric ones not fire) in the room where the family altar was, and they were lit all night. We also incensed all night and day. Vegetables and fruits are set out as offerings at the altar. When the bon period is over, the spirits are sent on their way. We bring these foods and special items that are needed for the sprits to go back. We see off them floating these offerings on rivers or the ocean.
If you have a chance to be in Japan around the O-bon period, I recommend you to see these spiritual events. I believe that you can see it everywhere rivers are regardless of popularity, however, you may see more lanterns floating and impressive view in an urban side.