When East Meets West: The Bon Festival
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
The Bon Festival, honoring the spirits of ancestors, has been observed in Japan since the 7th century.
The Bon Festival is a Buddhist festival held in midsummer when the Japanese people welcome and entertain their ancestor's spirits who are believed to have returned home.
It was originally held from the 13th to the 15th of the month in the lunar calender but today it is generally celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of August.
Among the traditional preparations for the ancestors' return are the cleaning of their tombstones and pathways from their graves to their homes, and the setting up of bon altars to welcome them with various offerings of vegetables, fruit and rice.
PHOTO HANK MILLER
On the 13th, welcoming fires are lit in lanterns at the front of houses. Buddhist priest are usually called to recite sutras. Then the visiting souls are sent off with send-off fires on the 15th.In fact, the whole country seems to be on the move during this period of time because the Bon festival provides all the family members with a chance to get together, no matter how scattered they are. Most people living in the cities return to their hometowns. Along with New Year's, the Bon Festival is an extremely important traditional event in Japan.
Warm Regards from Kitakyushu City, Japan
Have a really great and safe summer!......Hank, Keiko Miller & Family