Obon & Daimonji Japanese Festival
It is believed that each year during Obon, starting on August 13th and ends on August 15th, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives who remain. Obon begins with the welcome fire Mukaebi 迎え火 . You put out a lantern or a very small fire in front of your home to guide the spirits back.
Inside homes, offerings of rice, green tea, fruit, sweets and ancestors’ favorite food are placed to offer the ancestors at the family’s Buddhist alter called Butsudan 仏壇.
During this time families visit the graves of the ancestors and perform ritual cleaning of the grave stones.
At the end of the 3 day ceremony there is a bonfire to send off the spirits back, Okuribi 送り火.
In Kyoto there is a large festival to send the spirits back called Daimonji大文字 Festival. It’s formal name is Gozan no Okuribi五山の送り火 which means “Five mountains send off fire”. There are three giant characters, 大Dai, 妙法Myoho, another大Dai, and two shapes, one is a shape of boat 舟形Funagata, and the other is a shape of bird鳥居形Toriigata, made out of bonfires placed on mountain slopes. The bonfires are large enough to be able to see from the distance.
At 8 PM on August 16th,2017, the bonfires will be lit starting with 大Dai, 妙Myo, 舟形Funagata, another大Dai, and 鳥居形Toriigata. By 8:30 pm all of the bonfire characters are burning in the dark sky.
Gion Festival in July and this Daimonji大文字 Festival in August are very famous festivals in Kyoto, Japan.
In Tokushima in the island of Shikoku, there is a dance festival called Awa Odori 阿波踊りduring Obon.
This is the most famous dance festival during Obon date back 400 years, and draws over 1 million tourists every year.
Sadao and I are very proud of his Japanese heritage, and are always happy to share this culture with visitors to our Berkshires Shirakaba Japanese-American Guest House.