Note: One of the more difficult things to do is to pin down exactly when this festival actually is. Some parts of the country list it as “August 15.” Others list it as “July 15.” The difference comes from whether or not you follow the old Lunar calendar.
Now, I started these entries with the idea that one of the festival dates was August 15 in the Tokyo area, which logically should mean the last day of Obon would be on the 17th. But Japan Talk lists it as ending on August 15!
So here I am, a little late to the party, but there are other years and perhaps one day I’ll get to celebrate the festival in Japan itself.
On the second day of Obon, the party really gets started. There is dancing and drumming and good food and games. It’s a colorful, summery event.
Per this article from the Huffington Post:
“The second day of Obon is spent celebrating the spirits’ homecoming. Towns build stages in the center, where dancers perform the Bon Odori, or traditional Obon dance. Although this dance varies regionally, it’s usually accompanied by traditional Japanese drums. Along the stage, booths of Japanese treats, games, and shops provide a festival-like atmosphere. Since Obon occurs in summer, many attendees wear traditional yukatas (light-weight kimonos).”
Sounds like fun to me!
For another perspective, and lots of great pictures, here’s an article from Japan Talk:
Also, here’s a wonderful blog called Just One Cookbook, and the dedicated page for summer festival foods! The instructions are great, so maybe you’ll want to try one soon.
The last day of Obon
This is the day when the famous floating of the lanterns happens. In many parts of Japan this now happens in ponds with no outlet, rather than on the rivers. This is done for environmental reasons, but in the places where lanterns are floated down the rivers, it’s a truly beautiful sight. See the two articles above for more details.
As the lanterns float away, spirits of beloved family members are bid a fond farewell, until the next year.