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Visiting home and family graves during the summer


Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.

Note: Hank  is a former resident of Gloucester City who resides in 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01156ff02a98970c-800wi Kitakyushu City, Japan. category WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

 A series of events called "Oban" is centered on August 13th, to 15th,when Japanese greets their ancesters spirits.Oban is a Buddist festival when the Japanese people welcome and enertain their ancesters spirits who are believed to have returned home to the mortal world.

Oban combines indigenous Japanese religious faith in one's ancesters with Buddhist concepts.

A story of an eminent Indian monk forms the basis employed divine powers to locate the form of his dear mother,who was starved and thirsty.Every time he tried to give food or water to his mother, it would burst into flame's just as it was about to enter her mouth.The monk conversed with  Buddha, who told him he would secceed on the 15th of August,and in this way he gave sustenance and support to the spirit of his mother.
It is said that threse rituals were first performed in the imperial palace in the 7th century.Since being adopted more broadly among the populace,distinctive regional customs have also been added in the modern era.Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Oban in Japan is that during this time,schools and businesses close for the summer holiday.

The first Oban ritual is performed in the evening on the 13th,one stands outside the house and lights a fire or a lighted lantern to welcome their spirits home.On the 14th and 15th, sutras are read brfore a family altar as an offering to the returned spirits of the dead.Flowers and gifts are left as offerings at the gravesite itself,usually located on the grounds of a temple.On the last day,the 16th,another fire is lit to see the spirits off.Families who have lost a member in the previous year will take special care with offerings during ceremonies during the following Oban season. 
"Bon odori:" Highlight of the summer festival.
When it comes to offering comfort to the spirits of the dead.Oban has its fairly solsmn religious aspects,but this is not where the event ends for the Japanese.It can be a fun time,because it reunites relatives and friends who haven't met for a long time.Also hometown people take this opportunity to hold a summer festival,the highlight of which is the bon odori (or bon dance).The Bon dance has grown from its origins in Buddhist rituals fron over 500 years ago,in which believers chanted the names of Buddaha while dancing.

Here at the MILLER ENGLISH SCHOOL JAPAN ,we won't be dancing but we'll start our Oban holiday on August 7 to 13th, thus our school will be closed. We are planning to take day trips and just enjoy the rest and relaxation.
Warm Regards from Hot Sunny Kitakyushu city, Japan.
Hank F. Miller Jr.