The Japanese Bon Festival
There are many traditions, festivals and customs in the Japanese culture but one of the most popular events is The Bon Festival! The Bon Festival is a festival that has been happening for over 500 years in Japan. The reason people have the Bon Festival is too honour the spirits/ancestors that have died within a family.
Many people wonder where the Bon Festival came from or why it’s known as the “The Bon Festival”. The Bon Festival is named after a follower (disciple) of the Buddha, whose name was Maha Maudgalyayana (Also known as Mokuren). This disciple was believed to use super-natural powers to look upon his dead mother. When he did this, he discovered that his mother had fallen into “The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts” and had suffered. The man was so upset that he went to the Buddha and asked him what to do. The Buddha said that he needed to give offerings(Ex: Food and water) to Buddhist Monks who had completed their summer retreat to be able to release his mother. He did this very thing and he was said to have released his mother. Once his mother was released, Mokuren learned that his mother’s life was filled with unselfishness and many sacrifices for others. From there on, Mokuren was always giving and unselfish to everyone he met. This has all taught me that Festivals all mean more than the pretty lights and parades. There is more meaning and a story behind every fun event.
The Bon Festival has many traditions that are meant to show such things as respect and welcomes or good-byes. One of those traditions is the “Bon Odori”. The Bon Odori is a famous dance in Japan that means “Bon Dance”. The dance was originated in the Muromachi Period as an entertainment dance. Sadly, the religious significance of the Bon Odori has worn off and is now associated with summer. The reason for this dance is to welcome the Spirits of The Dead to the festival grounds. Now, this dance isn’t the same all across Japan! In fact, the dance at each festival is different within each region. But the one popular way the dance is usually performed is having many people line up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold called a “Yagura”. Dances can also include props such as fans or towels called “Tenugui”. The music also changes from region to region. The songs that are played are usually spiritual messages about Obon or famous Japanese folk songs. I think having Traditional dances at Festivals adds not only entertainment but a chance for families and friends to spend time together, doing something fun!
The festival is a very important event around Japan, that also requires work and support from families. One of the things Japanese families must do over the days of the festival is clean their houses to look neat and tidy. In the Buddhist religion, being clean yourself, and having clean surroundings represents purity. Japanese families also present different offerings including such things as fruits and vegetables to the spirits of their dead ancestors in front of a Buddhist Altar (a place where Buddhists worship and pray.) On the first day of Obon, special chochin lanterns are hung around the insides of households by Japanese families and visit ancestors grave to bring their spirits back home. In some cases, fires called “mukae-bi” to lead the spirits to their homes and families. After Obon is over, the families bring the spirits back to their graves with a chochin that has a family symbol painted onto it, so the spirits can come back next year. I think the series of events that happen during Obon are very interesting because they are so much different than traditions that someone who was Christian would do, here in Canada. I enjoy learning about Japanese cultures because when you compare Canadian cultures, there are many similarities!
The Bon Festival is something I would like to participate in for many reasons, which include, having a reason for celebrating, having a traditional dance that anyone can participate in and having a special series of events that happen every year during the festival!