Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bon Odori Festivals

It is a fabulous time of year in Japan with the summer festivals in full swing. Obon, a sort of festival of the dead, is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestors. It is meant to be a joyful celebration, bringing families together, and celebrating rather than mourning the lives of the dearly departed. These festivals are held every summer, in every district, in every city.

I'd like to share with you some of the festivities that my husband I have been taking part in. First, two videos and then two scrapbook pages I made of our experiences. There is just nothing like being in Japan during Obon!

In the first video, taken at NAF Atsugi, you can hear the addictive beat of the music that the people dance to in order to welcome their ancestor's souls. Many participants wear colorful, light cotton kimono called a Yukata. Men and children may also wear a shorts set called a Jinbei. With the taiko drummers pounding out the beat, one can't help moving in unison with the graceful dancers. Similar to a Country Line Dance, each tune has particular moves; the difference being that you move in a circle. Various dance teams are showcased on the tower to lead each dance. Anyone else who wishes to dance, whether you are in your yukata, jinbei or street clothes, follows along moving in a circular pattern around the tower. The Bon Dance is held at night because Japanese people believe that ancestors' souls come back in the night.

The second video is an Awa Adori parade. Much like an American parade, there is a point in the parade where the dancers can stop and perform a stationary dance. (just so you know, that is not me screaming in the background)

This year, my husband learned the dances for the first time. Now he can Tanko Bushi, Soran Bushi, Don Pan Bushi, Sakura Ondo, Sagami Ondo and Tokyo Ondo along with everyone else. I made this page of him dancing for Heidi's Techniques Challenge over at MAF .

This second page was one I made last year of myself and my girlfriends dancing around the Bon Tower at Camp Zama. I wrote a haiku for this page. It says:

Dancers loop the tower

Graceful in summer kimono

-- like thunder, drums pound!

These festivities have probably changed little in hundreds of years as Japanese people continue their wonderful Obon traditions to welcome and respect their ancestor's souls every summer. My husband and I love to dance in our base festivals, but when we hear the sound of the drums being carried on the evening breeze, we jump in our car and let the drums lead us to the local festivals where we join the circle once again. We sure love our time in Japan, especially during Obon!


Scrappi Sandi said...

Thank you for that fabulous introduction to what looks like a fabulous tradition! I will be back again to see what else you share! thanks to for the inspiration in your two fabulous LO's!

Cathy Bautista said...

Loved the dance debut LO! It was perfect for the pictures! :)

Heather Lough said...

Sounds like a very cool festival and love your layouts. I love taiko drummers, so that would be very cool.

Holly in Japan said...

Hi Theresa,
Love the OBon photos and pages. Your blog is great!
Thanks for the tip also about translating my pages into Japanese while I'm in the states.

Holly in Japan

Holly in Japan said...

Hi Theresa,
Love your OBon photos and pages. Great work and very interesting.
Thanks for the tip about translating pages while I'm in the states too.

Aihara Ramintessah Sanchez said...

Gee hun!!I havent experienced dancing during the Obon.Maybe its because we dont have much here in Toyohashi or I am just missing a lot since my DH was raised in Brazil and never done any dancing tradition.Its really interesting to embrace other people's culture and tradition.Love that layout too!!