Obon

It’s that time of year again; when people in Japan make eggplant tanks

For many parts of Japan, this week is the Obon season. This is the time when several generations of family members all come together in one house for a visit. Luckily for the hosts, the vast majority of these relatives are ghosts so don’t take up a lot of space.

But even though they’re ghosts it’d be rude not to lay out some food for them, and so it’s not uncommon to place some snacks or beverages on graves or family altars in the home. Among these you might find shoryo uma, little animals made of cucumber and eggplant meant symbolize animals which carry the spirits to and from the otherworld.

Traditionally these tiny animals are made by jabbing four sticks into the vegetable for legs. The result is quaint but kind of looks like something I’d slap together for my third grade art project so I could get back to playing Dragon Warrior - hardly something fit for the people who paved the way for your existence to ride in on! As such some people in Japan have begun pimping their shoryo uma to make sure their ancestors’ rides are safe, comfy, and in some cases kind of epic.

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The Great Obon Disaster: A fable of cicadas, dancing, and cats

Obon is a great time to be in Japan–the summer festivals fill the country with nights of folk music, stall food, and, of course, dancing. While the cops may not approve of you tearing it up in a club, surely no one could complain about the traditional circle dances of Obon.

But it turns out there’s a critic for everything!

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We checked out tourou nagashi in Asakusa and loved the beautiful floating lanterns!

In case no one told you, it’s obon this week in Japan! For many people this means a well-deserved long vacation and a trip home. It also means lots of fun cultural events. As you may know, obon is a Buddhist holiday all about the spirits of deceased ancestors coming back for a short visit. Tourou nagashi, literally “lanterns flowing,” is a special ceremony where, as the name implies, lanterns are set afloat, usually down a river. It’s a fun way to spend your evening and an incredible sight as well! This week, we headed to Azuma Bridge in Asakusa, Tokyo to check out the ceremony!

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A new take on an old tradition, these amazing Obon figures are literally fresh!

As we’ve previously mentioned, it’s Obon this week in Japan, and that means festivals, dancing, and ancestral spirits galore! Far from being the terrifying ghosts that you might find lurking in your closest in a horror film like Juon, however, these are spirits that Japanese people are happy to welcome into their houses. In addition to ohakamairi, or visiting graves, Japanese people also offer symbolic sacrifices at their home alters.

Some of the more interesting traditional sacrificial items are the cucumber horses (kyuri uma) and eggplant cows (nasu ushi) meant to carry the ancestors’ spirits to and from our earthly realm, but here’s one designer’s awesome, modern take on this ancient custom!

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Break out your rags and incense! Let’s learn to clean a grave the right way this Obon season

This Thursday, 15 August marks the beginning of Obon in most of Japan. Obon is a Buddhist custom in Japan where families gather together and are visited by the spirits of their ancestors. Various festivals are held to welcome the ghosts with music and dancing, depending on the region.

However, one tradition that is fairly consistent across the country is known as Ohakamairi (visiting the grave). This custom involves the family going to their grave to clean it and give presents to their deceased ancestors.

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