Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
Japanese festivals: Obon
If you live in Japan, you will definitely have noticed that it is a country that loves yearly events and festivals, from cherry blossom viewing festivals, to coming-of-age celebrations (these all take place the same day), to the bean-throwing tradition of setsubun. There are many such events spread out throughout the year that make a great topic of conversation if you’re living or staying in the country.
One of these traditions is Obon (お盆), a holiday that takes place in either mid July or mid August, depending on the region. However, the August date has become more common as of late, and this is when most people will have a few days off work.
Obon is originally a Buddhist custom where people honor their deceased ancestors. It is said that the spirits of these ancestors come back to visit the living at this time of the year, so it is tradition to visit their graves, clean the tombstones with water, and leave some food or drink the deceased enjoyed in life – it is not uncommon to see bottles of tea or rice balls on a grave, not only during Obon but any time of the year. The ceremony ends with lighting of incense and a prayer.
More generally, Obon a good excuse to see your family and visit your hometown. There is also a traditional dance performed during Obon called “Bon Odori” (盆踊り), literally “Obon dance”. This dance also varies region to region, and normally consists of traditional folk songs to welcome the spirits of the dead. People usually line up in a circle around a stage where the dance is being performed.
Many companies are closed during this time of the year, and despite only being a few days long, for many people this is one of the longest holidays they can get all year, together with Golden Week and New Year’s. While many of them choose to go back home to honor old traditions, there are some who choose to travel around Japan or abroad. Flight and hotel prices go up dramatically during this time of the year, so it is not a great time to visit or leave the country, unless you’re willing to pay a hefty premium.