Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day of the Dead

One of the things we have been looking forward to the most about being in Japan is getting a chance to experience firsthand all the festivals that are celebrated here throughout the year.Coming from a country where we have few national traditions we were both really excited to get a glimpse (and participate) in our first festival here over the weekend.Like many of the festivals here the Obon festival is observed across several days with many workers taking their paid leave to spend time with their families (not all festivals warrant a public holiday but 15 of them do!). Referred to as the ‘day of the dead’ Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the departed spirits of one’s ancestors. According to Wikipedia it has been celebrated here for more than 500 years and has evolvedinto a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places.We were lucky enough to be invited up to the Tomooka family grave which as part of Obon is cleaned by the family and then the ancestors are ‘carried down’ to their household altar where they stay forthe next three days. On the last night of Obon people gather together to dance in a big circle to the beat of a drum to send all the ancestors back to their resting places. Nathan and I were dressed by Bachan in traditional yukata (summer kimono) and went with Jo, Tom and the kids to take part. Having Bachan dress us in the Yukata caused great hilarity as we are obviously not the same build as the average Japanese and so she was having great fun trying to find ties big enough to fit around us...she even asked Nathan if he had two babies in his tummy! It was heaps of fun trying to get the hang of when to clap, slap, swing your legs and arms and when to take steps in which direction during the actual dancing part of the evening! It was just as well it was outside under lantern light so no one could really see how silly we must have looked! At the end they had a night they had a big raffle... I won some glad wrap and a drink bottle... doesn’t get much better than that!


lilyfire said...

score megsy, glad wrap and a drink bottle! that's a sweet prize if ever i knew of one :)
- jo (who is still stuck in marlborough)