The summer heat is here (in full force) and with it all the summer festivals! Even though the summers in our part of Japan are pretty hot and miserable, the festivals and activities that take place during this season are enough to make me love summer here anyway.
With summer comes Bon Season! That means music and dancing, street vendors and yummy treats, lanterns lining the streets and the aroma of incense filling the air! Oh, how I love it!
This past week, one of my English students told me all about “Obon Celebration” as she calls it. (This particular student meets with me once a month and makes it a priority to have a mini lesson with me – ironic I know – during her 2 hour English lesson, to discuss Japan traditions and holidays. Considering there is a Japanese holiday almost every month, there is always something to learn from her!)
Obon is a very important time of year for the Japanese, it’s when they celebrate their loved ones who have died. Traditionally they go to the shrines where their deceased’s graves are on the evening of the 13th, carrying lanterns to wake the dead. Once at the shrine, they “get” the spirits of their family members and bring them home with them. For the next 3 days they celebrate, preparing food and serving it to the spirits.
On the 15th, they end the celebration by sending the “spirit” down the river…thus telling it to go and be free until next year…this is done by making a little alter-like contraption with candles and flowers, food, what-not and sending it down the river. (My student told me that in the more recent years, they have been told that this litters the water and therefore they now just burn the alter.)
Bon Odori dancers also dance during the Awa festivals. Bon Odori, meaning simply Bon dance, is easier movements than Awa dances. (Awa Odori means “fool’s dance” due to it’s technical choreography and rigorous practice schedules - so as to perform perfectly) This fool would’ve done Awa had I had the time to make all the practices, instead I performed the Bon Odori dances again with several other fellow Americans from Atsugi base.
Bumpada bum padabum goes the Taiko Drums...
Bon season is officially over...sad ;( but then again, there's always next year! Come visit us during July or August and you too can take part in the Japanese's summer celebrations! Sugoi! (Awesome!!!!)