Do you know what is Obon ? It is a very famous Japanese festival held in August...
But also in July in Tokyo !
First of all, what Obon is all about ?
Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives.
It was originally celebrated around the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. Obon periods are nowadays different in various regions of Japan. In most regions, Obon is celebrated around August 15, and it typically begins 13th and ends 16th of August. However, if I talk about Obon now it is because it is celebrated around July 15 in some areas in Tokyo. Actually Tokyo official Obon festival is in July.
It is also celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar in many areas in Okinawa.
Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, Obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at temples. This is also the time Japanese people clean their houses. Then, they place a variety of food offerings such as vegetables and fruits to the spirits of ancestors in front of a butsudan (Buddhist altar). Chochin lanterns and arrangements of flower are usually placed by the butsudan.
Finally, Toro-nagashi, or floating lanterns, mark the end of the Obon festival.
The lights symbolize the souls of those who have departed. The lanterns are placed on rivers or bays and allowed to drift away just as the ancestors return to their graves.