Obon: Japan’s Poetic Dance with the Spirits of Ancestors

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Background and Overview:


Obon is a traditional Buddhist event in Japan, believed to be a time when the spirits of deceased ancestors return to visit their families.


The festival serves as an occasion to honor these spirits and for families to come together in remembrance of their departed loved ones.

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Dates and Practices:


Typically, Obon is observed from August 13th to 16th, although in some regions or due to specific religious practices, it might be celebrated from July 13th to 16th.

Welcoming and Farewell Fires

On the 13th, “welcoming fires” are lit to invite the spirits, and on the 16th, “farewell fires” are lit to send them back to the other world.

Grave Visits

During this period, many people visit their family graves, cleaning tombstones and offering food and other items in remembrance.


As families often gather, special dishes and sweets are prepared. Additionally, offerings of food are placed on altars for the spirits.

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Advice for Foreigners

Experiencing Obon offers a valuable glimpse into Japanese culture.

If you’re visiting Japan during this time, be aware that some businesses or restaurants might be closed, so it’s a good idea to check in advance.

Also, when visiting cemeteries or temples, please respect local customs and manners.

Understanding the significance and background of Obon can provide deeper insight into the richness and beauty of Japanese culture.


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