Bon or Obon is a Buddhist festival celebrated by Japanese people to commemorate and honor their deceased ancestors. People in Japan celebrate Obon for 3 days around the 15th day of the 7th month based on lunar and solar calendar. Due to different interpretation of the date of Bon festival, different regions in Japan celebrate Bon festival on different dates.
Certain regions observe Bon Festival in July (known as Shichigatsu Bon) while some others celebrate Obon in August (Hachigatsu Bon). Besides that, there is also Old Bon (Kyu Bon which is celebrated in Shikoku island, Ryukyu island, Chugoku region and the northern part of Kanto region on the 15th day of the 7th month in lunar calendar. Thus, the date of Kyu Bon is different from year to year.
When is Bon Festival 2014?
- Shichigatsu Bon will be observed around Tuesday, 15 July 2014.
- Hachigatsu Bon will be observed around Friday, 15 August 2014.
The Origin of Bon Festival
The commemoration of Bon Festival was based on the story about a disciple of Buddha named Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren). His mother was died, so he tried to look upon her situation by using his supernatural power. After seeing her mother’s suffering in the Realm of Hungry Ghost, he wanted to save her mother and asked Buddha about how to release her from the realm. Buddha told Maha Maudgalyayana to give offerings to many Buddhist monks on the 15th day of the 7th month. Soon after he did what Buddha said, he saw the release of her mother, and he danced with joy and happiness.
Bon Festival Celebration
Referring to the story, Bon festival is celebrated by remembering the deceased ancestors along with their sacrifices, and performing Bon Odori or Bon dance. Many parades, attractions, rides, games, fireworks, and street markets can also be found in most areas of Japan. Since Bon Festival is held on Summer, Japanese people attend the festival by wearing Yukata (a kind of kimono made from light cotton fabric worn by Japanese people on Summer).
The festivity of Bon Festival ends with the tradition of floating paper lanterns known as Toro Nagashi. This tradition symbolizes the return of Japanese people’s ancestors to their realm. Firework display usually becomes the main attraction signifying the end of Bon Festival.