Japanese Home Cooking Class in Tokyo. YUCa's Food & Lifestyle Media from Japan

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OBON (Bon Festival)

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O-bon is an important Buddhist festival to pray for the souls of the dead and conduct services in their memory. During the o-bon holidays, the souls of the ancestors are thought to return to this world from the world beyond. Lanterns are lit at each house to guide the departed souls back home.

During this season, Japanese people had always given thanks for a plentiful harvest. Over times those traditions were gradually combined with Buddhist rituals  to become the Bon Festival celebrated today.

On August 14 and 15, people return to their native towns and gather with other family members to honor the souls of their ancestors. They ask Buddhist priest to come to their homes and read special sutras.

Families gather at the graves of their ancestors and clean all around before placing offerings on a special shelf and welcoming the souls back home.

Mukaebi 迎え火

It is customary for people to burn small fires in front of their houses on the graves but today they can buy bouquets for this purpose at flower shops or other markets.

Ritual Offerings on the Bon Festival お盆のお供え物

In some regions of Japan, people make animals out of straw to assist the souls on their journey. Others make cucumber horses to help the souls make a quick return to this world and eggplant oxen to carry them slowly back to the world beyond.

Bon Dance 盆踊り

Bon dancing was originally a kind of ceremony to memorialize the souls who had returned to this world but now it is one of the main recreations enjoyed during this holiday season. People of all ages dress in cotton summer kimonos called Yukata and dance in a circle around a specially constructed yagura tower.

Traditional Food for the Bon Festival

– Vegetable tempura
– Rice dumplings
– Wheat noodles
– Inari-zushi

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