Japanese Culture & Traditions: August


The topic of August is “O-BON”or “The Festival of Souls”

 The Bon Festival. It was originally held on July 15 by the lunar calendar. Today it generally refers to the period from August 13 to 16. In old times, ancestral spirits and departed souls were believed to return to their families during this period. It is a festival for welcoming them home, making offerings to them and holding memorial services. People pay a visit to the family grave and pray for the repose of the dead, offering candles and bunches of flowers and burning incense sticks. It is customary in many districts to make bonfires for welcoming the ancestral spirits. On the last evening of the festival, bonfires for speeding them back (okuri-bi) to their world are also made in some districts. In seaside districts, wooden or straw lanterns replace okuri-bi.

In towns and villages across the country people in yukata (light cotton kimono) gather for outdoor dances known as bon-odori. For many Japanese, summer wouldn’t be summer without a bon-odori.