Thanks to Our Ancestors - お盆 Obon

Aug 14, 2022


Today is 14th August and our ancestors have arrived home. It seems that Japanese people believe something invisible. In this article I would like to share about 1) Japanese soul - appreciation, 2) things to do during ‘obon’ and 3) the famous related events. I hope it will be beneficial for your learning. 


1)We believe that our ancestors come back to ‘konoyo (this/our world)' once a year. This is a great opportunity to appreciate them. This is because we are here now thanks to them. Therefore, we wish for their peace at the same time.


‘Obon’ is between 13th and 16th of August but in Tokyo, it is between 13th and 16th of July by following the old calendar (lunar calendar)used before Meiji period. Normally on 13th, people make a small fire in front of the house in order to show the way to come back home for the ancestors. On 14th and 15th they visit the cemetery and have a gathering with their relatives. On 16th, they make a small fire again in the evening in order to show the way back to ‘anoyo (that over there/their world)’


3) There are a variety of events related to ‘obon’. For example, on 16th, the fire of the letter -‘dai(big)’is made in Kyoto. And you can see floating candles on the river in many places.  Firework festivals and bon-dances are also enjoyed around the ‘obon’ period.


In addition, ‘obon’ is not a national holiday but many companies make a holiday during this time. Some people go back to their hometown and some go on a trip.


I have not been back to Japan in summer but I used to visit the cemetery and meet my relatives at ‘obon’. My precious thing from my grandfather is his gold medal when he won the marathon before I was born. 


Do you have something like ‘obon’ in your country too? Is the attitude towards our ancestors similar or common among us? I hope you have learnt something for your life.


「輝いて」- Enrich your life!

Mineko Arai

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies


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