A Mini-Vacation for Obon
Today was the last time I teach for a few days and I'm stoked for the time off. Sunday marks the beginning of Obon and of all of the holidays I have seen here, I am most excited about this one.
The celebration of Obon varies from region to region. Most parts of Japan celebrate the time in mid-August, while some celebrate in July. Regardless of the time the festival is celebrated most regions of Japan go all out for this festival. Basically, it is a Buddhist belief that during Obon, your ancestors that have passed on will come back to visit with you and see how everything is going. People hang lanterns in their windows and doorways to help their relatives find their way home and this is a time for families to gather at graves and leave offerings of treats for their loved ones. It is very similar to the Day of the Dead that is celebrated throughout parts of South America and the Chinese also celebrate a version of Obon called the Ghost Festival.
The festival starts in Fukuchiyama tomorrow and culminates on the 16th with a big fireworks display by the river that runs through my town. Before I looked into what the festival was actually celebrating, I thought it was just kind of a summer festival to mark the season and the river seemed like a logical place to shoot off fireworks because its wet and open. As it turns out, many people will probably bring small lanterns and candles to float down the river at the end of the night. After your relatives come to visit you, you have to guide them back to their home and you do that by placing a lantern or candle in a lake or river. They will follow the light back to their world.
Over the years, this holiday has become the time for family reunions and this places it in the top three busiest traveling times in Japan. The other two are the Christmas/New Years season and Golden Week. Now I feel kind of sort of bad about messaging this one woman I know and asking her what she was going to do with her time off...kind of sort of hinting that I will be watching fireworks on the 16th and wouldn't mind company. Now I know she will most definitely be with her family like she should be.
The more I learn about Japanese holidays, the more I start to like a lot of them. Yeah, some of them are pretty pointless but there are a few that I really like the meaning of. I am not sure why, but I find it very comforting to know that relatives can come back and visit you and kind of check up on you. I think part of it stems from the fact that after I die, I would like to know that my family and friends are all still doing okay here on Earth. That and for the longest time, I have felt like my grandpa who died almost fourteen years ago, still comes back to check up on me. I feel selfish for saying that because there are people he could check up on that need his help a lot more than me but there are times where I swear he was standing right next to me or sitting on the train with me, enjoying the scenery as it passes by. He liked to travel, like me. Who knows, maybe he is just coming back to visit because I know that if he were still alive today, he would come here and visit me and see the country like I am now.
Anywho, I am expecting to get some pretty cool pictures in the next few days and when I do, I will post them. If you want to learn more about Obon and its history, there is a Wiki for it, just pop in Obon.
Until the next post, Grandma and Grandpa Walker, this Obon is for you.