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Friday
Aug122011

O-Bon 1

Sets of O-bon offerings on sale at the local supermarket

   O-Bon, Japan's Buddhist festival of the dead, begins tomorrow for most living people in Kyūshū. While the "festival" is generally held from the 13th to the 15th of August in most parts of Japan, some areas in Japan observe the Bon in the middle of July and as late as September. 

   Ask the Japanese if they like the Bon festival and they'll usually answer by screwing their faces or sucking air throught their teeth. The holiday doesn't have quite the cachet of o-Shōgatsu (New Years). Perhaps that's because the Bon is more about things you have to do rather than would like to do.

   On the 13th, families are expected to visit their ancestor's grave where they tidy it up and make offerings of flowers and incense. Some will light a lantern known as a mukae-bi (迎え火) at the cemetery and carry it all the way back home to guide the spirits of their ancestors. In the past these lanterns would have contained an actual flame, but in today's modern Japan, the flame has been replaced by a flickering lightbulb. (Safety first, I guess.)

   A Google search of mukae-bi will show you small fires lit before homes. Personally, I have never seen this, nor have I heard of anyone doing this. Most families hang a lantern up in front of their home, especially if it is their hatsu bon, that is the "first bon" since someone in their family has died. 

   To be continued.

 

 

 

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