By Sahira Fayza Gunawan
The student of SMP Al-Azhar, Banda Aceh
Japan has been very popular in recent years. From pop culture, to anime and manga, delicious food, and their rich culture that has been preserved for centurie. Japan has attracted many foreign visitors in the last decade. Many have been travelling towards the country located in East Asia due to their love of Japanese culture.
From the many festivals and celebrations in Japanese culture, today we will be talking about the Obon festival in Japan. Now, what exactly is this Obon festival?
Obon (お盆) or just Bon (盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. It is easily more identified as the ghost festival for foreigners. Obon is one of the largest celebrations held in Japan, during this time people pay respect to their ancestors and loved ones who have passed.
The exact origins of Obon is still widely debated, but the festival is known to have Buddhist roots. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has slowly evolved into a family reunion holiday, where many people come back home to their families and sweep and clean the graves of their ancestors and loved ones who wonder as spirits revisiting their household altar. In simpler terms, Obon is a festival commemorated by holding a memorial service welcoming the spirits of the deceased, though mostly about their ancestors.
The Obon festival has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and usually includes a dance, which is called Bon Odori. It is usually performed to liven up the festival due to the fact that many religious roots of the festival have slowly been lost through time.
Usually, the Obon festival lasts for 3 days, but varies between different regions in Japan. Obon usually takes place during the seventh month of the year, typically from the 13th to the 15th. Dates can change depending on region and which calendar is followed, the solar or lunar calendar. Celebrations are most commonly held in either July (Shichigatsu Bon) or August (Hachigatsu Bon).
During the annual festival, families gather together to celebrate their ancestors with paper lanterns, special offerings, and traditional dances.
Families place offerings of fruit, rice, green tea, sake, and lotus shaped sweets at the graves or family altars. Paper lanterns are hung around the house to help guide spirits home. Although Obon is a memorial, it is not solemn and quite festive and cheerful.
Obon week is one of Japan’s major holiday seasons, with many people taking off time from work and lots of shops and places closing due to the festival being important culturally and traditionally.
A few of the most popular Obon festivals are the Daimonji Gozan Okuribi Fire Festival in Kyoto, the Gujo Odori Festival in Gifu, and the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima and Shikoku. Other notable festivals are the Nagasaki Shoro Nagashi Festival in Nagasaki as well as the Hokkai Bon Odori in Mikasa and Hokkaido.
Obon festival has caught the attention from all of us. Any lessons we learn from this festival? Well, of course, the festival itself taught us to remember our cherished ones who have passed and pay respect to our ancestors.
The Obon festival has many beautiful celebrations, mouthwatering food, parades, and dancing that will surely excite you. We hope one day in the future we are able to visit Japan and experience the culture and festivals it has to offer!
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