“This is Japan” is a weekly blog post where I talk a about my life in Japan.
It’s a place where I can share some of the strange, funny, or interesting stories from my week. Sometimes it is a bit personal or random, but I hope you will enjoy learning what it is like to live in Japan.
An important Japanese holiday is Obon
Obon, or just Bon, is a Buddhist holiday – a festival for the dead. People believe that at this time their ancestors’ spirits return to the world to visit their relatives. Many people prepare symbolic meals to place at their ancestors tombstone as an offering.
This is around the second weekend to the third week of August. There is no holiday marked on the calendar for Obon, but a lot of people generally get a few days off work anyway. It’s a time when a lot of people go back to their hometown. It’s not a good weekend for spontaneous travel because the trains are ridiculously overbooked.
Side note: Once I was in Okinawa with my husband, and he said that people believe you shouldn’t swim in the ocean during Obon. It’s because the people who died in the ocean will grab your legs and pull you under.
This year, my husband and I went to the Obon Festival at Nagoya Castle
A Japanese summer festival is a great opportunity to wear a traditional yukata. So we put ours on and headed to the castle where we got a ¥100 discount for wearing them.
The Obon festival at Nagoya Castle also includes a kind of a general summer festival. There is the theme of Obon, but there is also a large stage with performances, and it is at the same time as a beer festival. Neither of us drink.
Festivals are pretty much the only time in Japan when you can get street food. So we picked a few deep fried things from the food stalls then found a place to sit and eat, Nagoya Castle in our background. Did you know there are a couple deer living in the moat around the castle? Don’t worry, there’s no water in the moat.
Surprisingly, it was not too hot for a Japanese summers night, and we were not sweating buckets.
Soon, it was time for the Bon Odori dance!
Bon Odori – a dance to welcome the spirits of the dead.
There was a small stage set up on the gravel, with strings of lanterns connected to the trees. Little old ladies stood around the stage, ready to take their cue from the other little old ladies choreographing the dance from the stage.
It was fun to watch people of all ages and nationalities come together during the Bon Odori. Especially the grandmas. I imagined that they were having such a wonderful time. They looked like they were. And doing the Bon Odori was such a nostalgic thing for them, since they had done it since they were a kid. That’s the story I made up in my head.
It was very heartwarming.
There was also a tent set up where you can get some practice with throwing stars. I watched a bunch of kids try it and fail. I didn’t do it because I’m already a ninja and don’t need the practice.
This was my second time going to the Obon festival at Nagoya Castle. My husband and I went three years ago to test out our yukatas.
The festival lasts for a few days at the castle, and I wanted to go a second time with my camera to try and take better photos. But I was lazy and didn’t go again, so everything above is taken with an iPhone.