It is nearly time for the Obon festival (お盆), or Festival of the Dead. Obon is a holiday season in Japan that began as a Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s family ancestors. The holiday is observed during different times of the year depending on the region of Japan, so it falls around mid-July or mid-August. It is not an official government holiday, but most companies take off time during the festival. In the region where we live, Obon is observed from about August 11th-15th.
Traditionally, it was thought that during Obon, the spirits of ancestors would travel to this world to visit family members. While not everyone may still hold this belief, Obon is seen as a time for reuniting with family, respecting one’s ancestors, and visiting and cleaning the cemeteries where family members are memorialized. Since my husband and I are Christian, we do not practice Buddhist customs or believe in the spiritualism of Obon. However, the festival is a time of reunion with family, as it is one of the few times a year when they can take off time from work. This year, our aunt, uncle, and sister on Masashi’s side will travel to visit. Continue reading