Obon Festival

Japanese Remembering Their Deceased Ancestors on "Obon: The Festival Of Dead"

The Obon festival is a Japanese holiday held every year. It is a commemoration and a day of remembering all deceased ancestors. According to Japanese Tradition, during the Obon festival, the spirits of deceased people return to our world in order to visit their loved ones.

About Obon Festival

The Obon Festival is actually a Buddhist festival. The traditional way of celebrating this day is by hanging lanterns in the front of houses to guide the spirits of ancestors. Obon dances, called bon odori, are also performed. People visit the graves of their deceased relatives. They also bring food as offerings to temples and house altars. By the end of the celebration, floating lanterns are put onto rives, seas, and lakes in order to guide the spirits back into their world. This is a national celebration in Japan but the customs may vary from one region to another.

Obon Festival in Japan

The Obon is always observed from the 13th to 15th day of the 7th month of the year. This means, according to the solar calendar, that it is celebrated during July. However, the formerly used calendar that marks the celebration happens to coincide the date with August. Hence, Obon is celebrated each year from August 13 to 15.

The Obon Week during mid-August is one of the three major holidays in Japan – along with Golden Week and New Year. During these days of celebration, various domestic and international travel activities are done.


The exact origin of the Obon festival is known only to an extent. Some records say that the story of this ritual originated in India. It then spread to China and to other parts of South Asia. Eventually, it made its way into Japan. It is believed that a disciple of Buddha used his supernatural powers in order to contact his deceased mother. He found out that his mother had descended to the Real of Hungry Ghosts. He became distressed and asked Buddha for a way to free the spirit of his mother from pain. Fortunately, Buddha told him to give offerings for the Buddhist monks who would be returning from a summer treat. Upon doing that, the spirit of his mother became free.

Obon is a term that came from the Sanskrit word ullambana which means “to hang upside down”. It means unbearable suffering and pain. The Japanese people thus hold the Obon festival to free their ancestors of all of their pain. They also do this so that their relatives can return to their ancestral homes and visit the graves of their deceased ancestors.


The Obon festival is always celebrated from August 13 to 15 every year. This means that the upcoming Obon festival will be celebrated on August 13, until  August 15,

Why Celebrate

The following are the main reasons why you should participate in the celebration of the Obon festival:

To Reconnect with Your Deceased Ancestors

First good reason why you should celebrate this festival is that this is the opportune time for you to reconnect with your deceased ancestors. There is no better time than the Obon festival to go to your ancestors’ graves and remember all the time you spent with them.

To Reunite with Your Relatives

Of course, you come from a family tree from your ancestors. If you visit their graves during the Obon festival, you will be able to have a reunion with your relatives including your cousins, aunts, uncles, and even distant relatives. This is a good time where you can catch up with each other’s lives and enjoy each other’s company.

To Help Guide Lost Spirits Back in their World

One purpose of the Obon festival is to guide lost spirits back into their world. Lanterns are lit and put onto the bodies of water so as to guide spirits back to where they belong. This is such a good sight to see and another reason why you should celebrate this holiday.

Celebration Ideas and Activities

The following are the best things to do to make your celebration of the Obon festival as best as it can be:

Visit Your Ancestors’ Graves

One good thing you can do for your celebration of this day is to visit your ancestors’ graves. Actually, you are recommended to clean the graves perhaps a day before the Obon festival so that when you go there during the actual celebration, you can celebrate in a clean environment. You can also prepare food offerings for your ancestors and even foods that you can share with your relatives whom you would be seeing during your visitation.

Participate in the Floating Lanterns Activity

Another good thing you can do for your celebration of this day is to participate in the floating lanterns activity. This is one of the most important activities for the Obon festival. Floating lanterns are floated on bodies of water like a river, ocean, or sea. It is said that these lanterns will guide spirits back into their world after visiting their living relatives.

Celebrate Obon Festival on Social Media

You can also take your celebration of this day on social media. For example, you can use the hashtag #ObonFestival to let your friends and followers know that you are also participating in the celebration of this day. This is also a good way to encourage other people to participate in the celebration.

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