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.
Rather than being used to celebrate New Year like in the west, fireworks (花火, Hanabi) have a long history in Japan as being an important part of the Japanese summer.
Originally used to ward off evil spirits, firework shows are held all across the country mainly during the school summer holidays in late July and August. The biggest events draw huge crowds, and getting a good viewing spot often involves lots of waiting and planning in advance.
A secondary attraction of Japanese fireworks is the relaxed festival atmosphere that comes with them, including people dressed in yukata, huge floats and streets lined with food and game stalls.
Pictured above is the Nebuta summer festival in Aoomori prefecture. Festival fireworks typically start sometime after sunset and last one to two hours. Many of the longer shows are broken up into multiple shorter segments, interrupted by the announcement of titles and sponsors. They often end with a grand finale consisting of hundreds of shells launched simultaneously.
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Malc & Rich
It’s back! To “celebrate” (hope it hurries up and finishes) rainy season, we’re running our 10% rainy season discount again. Simply enter one of the below codes to get 10% off your box of delicious Japanese snacks:
raindrop1 – 10% off a one time box
raindrop2 – 10% off the first box of a monthly subscription
Please note that these codes do not work with 6-month or 1-year orders, and that the maximum number of redemptions is limited.
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June in Japan sees the start of 梅雨 (tsuyuu) or “rainy season” as it’s come to have been known in English. If you ask the locals, June is the last month that they would recommend to visit. After starting in the middle of June, the rainy season lasts about six weeks and believe us, it is truly painful.
We actually were starting to think that we had avoided it by some miracle this year as June has been very dry so far. However, sadly we were mistaken when the rain and humidity came to Nagoya this week!
The only place to escape is the northern most prefecture of Hokkaido where temperatures remain in the mid-20Cs throughout the summer.
The following table shows the average starting and ending dates of the rainy season for selected regions of Japan, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency:
|Kansai (incl. Kyoto)
|Kanto (incl. Tokyo)
The rainy season in Japan is is caused by the collision of northern and southern air systems and produces, surprisingly, a lot of rain. The problem for us humans is the humidity at this time of year – you cannot leave your house without dripping almost instantly. A truly tough six weeks.
It doesn’t actually rain every day during rainy season, with Tokyo registering around an average of 12 rainy days in June – that said we did just say it starts in the middle of that month! Let’s just say it’s not the best time of the year so がんばります! (Try your best!).