Now that the Obon festivities have been over for a couple of days, I try to will sum up everything that went on. First, there was a lot of stuff going on depending on where you were, each town has their own way of celebrating Obon, some are more elaborate than others.
My first Obon adventure was my trip to a temple outside of Kyoto called Adashino Nembutsu-Ji. The draw of this temple are the 8000 some odd stone statues that are crammed into the area. Each stone represents a homeless person or a person without a family that died and their remains were brought to the temple. Every year on the 23rd and 24th of August they light candles in remembrance of each soul. I want to see that but I am not sure I will be able to make it. Either way, you don't realize how big of a number 8000 is until you see all of these little statues. There is also a really cool bamboo forest behind the temple and a very large cemetery. At the cemetery, people were lining up around this fountain, waiting their turns to douse each visage of Buddha that made up the base of the fountain with water. At each Buddha, they would pour water from the fountain over each of his shoulders and then his head and then say a small prayer. By the time a person was done making their way around the fountain, they had repeated this six or seven times. It was really cool to see but photography was not allowed there so, no pictures of it.
After the temple, I walked back down the road and stopped in all of the little shops along the street. There was one shop that was selling handmade ceramics that were made in a kiln in the rear of the shop and I bought a very cool candle lit shadowcaster. When I place a candle inside of it, the silhouette of a witch flying over a house on her broom, shines on my walls. Its very cool and unique.
Finally, I took a bus back to the Kawaramachi area of Kyoto and looked in some shops. I found one store that had the kit needed to play pirated Nintendo DS games on the DS and snagged one of those. It is nice to be able to carry my DS around now without having to carry any games with it. There are times when piracy is danged convenient. After this, I went home for the night.
The next day marked the highlight of the Obon festivities for Fukuchiyama, a massive fireworks display. The Japanese word for fireworks is "hanabi" or "fire flower". I must say, I will never be please by a North American fireworks display again. I have never seen fireworks like these ones, they were phenomenal. The whole show lasted an hour and a half and had seven or eight finales. Each business that wanted to donate to the display bought their own fireworks I think and so it came down to all of the businesses trying to out do each other. I saw a waterfall made from sparks, one kind of firework that when launched and exploded had such a powerful explosion that it took a second for the sound to hit the crowd but when it did, your hair fluttered briefly from it. There were fireworks of all sorts and all of them were pretty cool. Bottom line, I like Japanese hanabi shows.
There were also snack vendors present for the festival. I really enjoyed one snack that was called Baby Capallera or something like there. It was basically waffle batter that had honey in it and was poured into these molds. The result was a fluffy, donut-like treat that was shaped like Doremon, Winnie the Pooh, or a little ball. You buy them by the bag and they are tasty. Also for sale was some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten, served by the chunk in these little cups. That was good chicken. I am very glad I am here for another year if only for the fact that I get to see all of this one more time. It was so much fun.
The following day, I went back to Kyoto with Karie and Reid. As the closing of Obon means that your deceased relatives have to go back to their world, we watched thousands of little floating lanterns sail down the river to help guide the spirits. Each lantern had a person's name on it and that was supposed to act as that person's guide back to the spirit world. Before the launch, people were buying them and calligraphy artists were writing the peoples' names on the lanterns. That was something to see as was the lighting of the kanji characters on the hills surrounding the outskirts of Kyoto, technically a town named, Arashiyama. You could see some of the kanji for miles due to their size and the orange flames that punctuated the night sky. It was very beautiful and I am thankful I got to see it. If anyone wants to come visit and can get here around the tenth of August and wants to leave around the twentieth or so, you can see all of the Obon festivities and still be able to see the other cool stuff Japan has to offer.
Now on to the pics! I apologize ahead of time for some of the blur on a few of them, my camera isn't very fond of low light.
These are of the lanterns that went down the river:
This was one of the kanji that was burning on the hillside overlooking the valley:
Here are a few pics from my visit to Adashino Nembutsu-Ji, these are of the statues:
This is a small wooden monk I found praying at the entrance to the statuary:
Here is the path that leads through the bamboo forest:
Well, that is about all for now. The whole experience was a blast and I am glad I will be able to have a second go at it next year. I am going to update the Multiply site with even more pictures in a few days. I am in the process of sorting all of my pics at the moment and that is proving to be a little more tedious than I anticipated. Don't think that I have not forgotten that site, it will get updated very soon.