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Obon, celebrated either in July or August depending on the region or prefecture, is a time when the Japanese people commemorate their ancestors and believe the spirits of their deceased ancestors return to their homes and families. Obon takes place for about three days and observes several customs during the celebrations.
First, lanterns are hung on the entrances of homes to guide the spirits of their deceased ancestors back home. These lanterns are put in rivers and lakes after Obon to guide them back to the other world. Next, a dance called Bon Odori is very common throughout Japan. The dance welcomes the spirits of the deceased back to the world and varies by region. Finally, Obon is a time when many families in Japan visit their ancestors graves and cemeteries. A typical cemetery visit involves cleaning your ancestors' graves and leaving flowers and food offerings. Families not only visit graves but it is also customary for families to get together and spend time with their grandparents and extended family.
Unlike other Japanese holidays, Obon is well celebrated even outside of Japan. Places with big Japanese communities, such as Hawaii, California, and Brazil, throw large Obon celebrations at Buddhist churches, temples, or community centers. Just like in Japan, these obon celebrations involve plenty of bon odori, delicious yatai festival foods, and spending time with family. Celebrating Obon is a popular summer past time filled with the sound of taiko drums blaring, energetic dancing, and delicious foods.
Interested in joining the celebrations next summer? Talk to your travel agent about our affordable line of Japan tours, or contact the travel specialists at Japan Deluxe Tours to plan a summer vacation package complete with a day spent at an Obon Festival in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Tokushima. We offer flexible departures and you can always add the festival to a fully-guided Highlights Japan Tour or Southern Japan vacation package.
Informal, unlined kimono made of cotton
Japan's Traditional Festivals - Takayama Festival, Gion Festival
Dance to Welcome The Ancestors' Spirits
Rite of passage for girls age three and seven and boys age five
A happi is a traditional Japanese robe with the family crest or mon printed on the back.
Comprehensive Museum on Traditional Awa Odori Dance
Celebration of girls' happiness and growth
A symbolic event with over 10,000 dancers.