Thursday, August 18, 2011

Japanese Obon Festival

      While we didn't get to experience Japanese Obon this year, due to the girls and I being at VBS and less than pleasant weather, I thought I'd share with you one of the most important traditions  to the Japanese.
    Obon is a festival of sorts where the Japanese believe that their ancestors spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family. Obon is a week long festival and it ended on August 15th. Families who have moved away, return to their hometowns to be a part of the celebration and welcome their family members back from the grave. From what I 've read, the Japanese clean their houses and place a variety of food offerings, such as vegetable and fruits to for the spirits of ancestors in front of a butsudan, a buddhist altar. I don't know that they are all this large, but this is what I found when I searched the name of the buddhist altar.

    People then go to their family's grave and call their ancestors spirits back home. The name of this practice is called muke-bon.

On the last day of the festival, families send Toro Nagashi,(floating lanterns) down the river to the ocean, which are believed to hold their ancestors spirits. The latern and the spirit is lead down the river lit by a candle to guide the way to the ocean. Here are a few pictures that were posted on the Sasebo Naval Base website of the Toro Nagashi ceremony held here in Sasebo.

 This is the Sasebo River and the Albuquerque bridge, which connects Sasebo City with Nimitz Park. It is said to be the bridge of friendship between the Navy here in Sasebo and the people of Sasebo City. You can see all of the people lined up on the bridge and on the side of the river. Some of these people are just watching and others are waiting to float their lantern down the river.

You can't see these on the bridge from the picture above, but these white lanterns are strung along the length of the bridge. I'm not sure what they say, but they look beautiful.
Paper  lanterns floating down the Sasebo River into the ocean, during the day light.

Here is a view of the lanterns hanging from the bridge and the paper lanterns floating down the river.

A cluster of lanterns in the river.

We hope next year there is better weather and no commitment conflicts.I know there are many more festivals to come and I'm excited to see them all in person!!


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