TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

O-Bon Lanterns Hung Out and Lit Early in August Shows Excited Anticipation Of Return of Ancestral Spirits

A lit O-Bon lantern hung outside the the front door of a home in Hojo ( August 9th 2011)

Having just moved into my the old neighborhood of Hojo, near the foot of Mt Tsukuba, has meant learning a lot of things about Japan which are completely new to me. One question that I had had since coming to live here in early August was why so many families have had their O-Bon lanterns ( meant to guide ancestral spirits back to their earthly homes) so many days before the day that the festival actually begins on August 13th.

In fact, MOST of the houses around where I now live have had their lanterns hung up and lit since the 7th of August, nearly a week before the day on which it is believed the ancestors return for their short stay in this world with their families.

A beautiful O-Bon lantern lights up the night in my neighborhood ( August 7th 2011)

I thought that their might be some special local beliefs which would explain this surprising custom ( though I surely dont want to complain because the lit lanterns ARE beautiful), and finally this morning talked to some of my neighbors about it.

They told me that there is no particular belief for which the lanterns are put out early, but everyone does so simply to express their eager anticipation of the ancestors` arrival. It is just a way of saying WE ARE WAITING FOR YOU.

If you would like to share in the joy of the festival as celebrated in my neighborhood, you can come out this Saturday evening ( August 14th) for some Bon Dancing ( Bon O-dori) outside the Hojo Branch Office of the Tsukuba City Hall ( in Hojo).

I have written more about the O-Bon Festival here:

http://blog.alientimes.org/2008/08/theyre-coming-home/

and here :

http://blog.alientimes.org/2008/08/bon-jour/ ( because this year`s a main day of O-Bon will also fall, coincidentally, on the night of a full moon.



One Comment

  • Hanamizuki says:

    I was born and grew up in other area in Tsukuba.
    They usually got a O-bon lantern before the first O-bon of the dead someone
    in their houses.
    At the first 7th of August they hung out and lit it …They called it Taka-Doro.
    The purpose was for the deads spirits to be able to return right.
    Neighbours visited to offer sticks of incense, and were entertained by tea and
    some dishes. But this traditional event was stopped some years ago.
    They usually hung it at only two O-bon.
    I think you live in very unique area now.