Summer Holiday (Obon)
The most awaited festival of the year by the Japanese, without a doubt, is the Obon. It is a kind of way to thank the ancestors of the family, whose spirits are drawn to visit the homes of their relatives. Lanterns “chōchin” (提 灯) are placed on the doors of the houses as “mukaebi” (迎 え 火) to receive the spirits of the ”house” and at the end of the holiday period, they are sent back with these “okuribi” lanterns (送 り 火), which are burned at the end of the way. As the religious costume, floating candle lanterns are carried by the stream of water to guide the spirits back.
The obon (御 盆) is equivalent to the day of the dead in many countries and has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years. The word itself is “Bon” (盆), since the “O” (御) is an honorific prefix (it is also read as “Go”, in other words). The original word is “Ullanbana” from the Sanskrit language, which means “hung upside down,” expressing great suffering. In the Japanese language is “Urabon”, from where originated the word “Bon”. The Obon period can be in July, on the days 13rd to 16th or in August on the days days 13rd to 16th, because of the adjustment of the solar and lunar calendars, however today is celebrated in August.
Over time and with the mixing of cultures, the invention of gunpowder etc, the Obon began to become increasingly attractive (and even for commercial use with sponsors), that during the “obon matsuri”, all allegories and attractions are used to attract the spirits of the ancestors to cheerfully celebrate with the living ones.
The fireworks attract the public by its visual and sonorous beauty, the vigorous rhythm of the “taiko” (太 鼓) attracts everyone by its pleasant sonority and of course, the contagious joy of the “bon odori” dance. Originally the “Bon odori” dances were meant to spread Buddhism in Japan in small towns and villages and became popular in the festivities. Hanabi (花火) was used for the first time in Obon, at the Sumidagawa River festival, to relieve the suffering spirits of people who died of an epidemic such as cholera.
At last, Obon is a festival to give joy to the suffered spirits and in recent times, it is also to thank and honor the spirits of the ancestors, as it is possible to notice by the beauty, joy, colors, abundant food, etc.