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Japan’s Obon festival: family commemoration and ancestral worship

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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The Obon festival explained:

Each year in Japan, people celebrate ohigan, a period of seven days around both the vernal and the autumnal equinoxes, and obon, which stretches over a few days on either side of August 15. Employers grant leave to staff. Trains filled with people returning from big cities like Tokyo and Osaka to their family homes (referred to as ie) in the countryside. These national holidays are an opportunity to rekindle relationships with grandparents and extended family. They are also a time when people visit their family graves. Many Japanese people do not profess a particular faith. Yet, at these specific points in the year, they visit family graves in a practice likened to ancestral worship. While to western sensibilities, the idea of “worship” implies a religious connection, as anthropologist Jason Danely has put it, “ancestor memorial is such a common-sense and mundane practice that, for most people, it is indistinguishable from the non-religious world.”

JREF's entry on Obon:

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