Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Obon

Obon is the yearly Buddhist event in Japan where it is believed that one’s ancestors return to visit. Obon is an important family time and many people return to their hometowns.  It’s not a national holiday, but businesses close and employees are allowed to take off work.  It lasts three days, but it seems like there is some flexibility as to when those three days are, depending on the location.  Here, it is observed the 13th – the 15th of August.  When I checked online for the dates, I saw 15 July (Tokyo), 15 August and 15 of the seventh lunar month (Okinawa). The university has been closed these three days. Mid-August is one of the three big travel times in Japan, the others being Golden Week and New Years.

I tried asking my neighbor about Obon, with the help of the English-Japanese dictionary. She said people bring snacks and sake to their ancestors and clean the grave site and pray. I wanted to know who is drinking the sake (not the ancestors, right?).  She made motions like passing around the cup and drinking. She said the ancestors like to have round bean things for food.  If this isn’t right, I blame it on the dictionary.  I also asked her about who takes the things away from the Jizo area. She said people in the neighborhood. I’m still wondering about that.  I know I wouldn’t feel right about taking something away that someone else had brought.

I downloaded a book to my iPod called Buddhism, the Essence by David Tufffley, but I haven’t started reading it yet. Maybe it will give me some Buddhist basics.

2 comments:

  1. Is the warm fine weather holding so you can enjoy the break? Holidays like this are rare as hens teeth in hardworking Japan!

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    1. The weather is absolutely beautiful - 77 degrees F. and a little bit of a breeze. I don't know anyone who can complain about summer weather in Hokkaido!
      I have to agree about how hard working people are here.

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