Obon (お盆)

Obon (お盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of one’s ancestors that has been celebrated for at least 500 years. Although a traditionally religious time of the year, it has developed into a national holiday during which Japanese revisit their hometown’s to get together with family for a few days.

A dance, known as Bon-Odori has also developed over the years and it is a common sight at festivals across the country during this time of the year. Participants of the dance traditionally wear yukata, or light cotton kimonos that are often beautifully adorned and the look finished off with Geta (下駄) – Japanese sandals made from wood.

Many Obon celebrations include festivals with games, and summer festival food like chilled cucumber and watermelon. The festival ends with Toro Nagashi (灯籠流し), or the floating of lanterns. Paper lanterns are illuminated and then floated down rivers symbolically signalling the ancestral spirits’ return to the world of the dead.