Japan’s Obon Festival Celebrates Ancestor’s Spirits With Floating Lanterns

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Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. People believe that their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during Obon and pray for the spirits. For the reason, Obon is an important family gathering time, and many people return to their hometowns during that time. The Obon Festival in Japan is held every August. People release floating lanterns into the water to represent their ancestors’ spirits being sent off.


Obon 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. In some areas in Tokyo, Obon is celebrated around July 15, and it is still celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar in many areas in Okinawa.

Japanese people clean their houses and 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.

On the first day of Obon, chochin lanterns are lit inside houses, and people go to their family’s grave to call their ancestors’ spirits back home. It’s called mukae-bon. In some regions, fires called mukae-bi are lit at the entrances of houses to guide the spirits. 

On the last day, people bring the ancestor’s spirits back to the grave, hanging chochin painted with the family crest to guide the spirits. It’s called okuri-bon.

In some regions, fires called okuri-bi are lit at entrances of houses to send the ancestors’ spirits. During Obon, the smell of senko incense fills Japanese houses and cemeteries.

Discovered via Aboutdotcom. Photo credits: http://www.animevice.com/forums/just-manga/19/obon-festival/333390/ and 1440Blog.com. 

Renee Blodgett
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Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

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