O-bon usually takes place during August 13th to 16th every year. O-bon is the time for the Japanese to commemorate their ancestors’ spirits. It is said that the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their living relatives. Traditionally, lanterns made from traditional Japanese paper are hung at the door steps and are later floated down the rivers. Oh, it is such a beautiful site!
Graves are being visited (the activity known as ohaka-mairi in Japanese) and offerings of food are being made at the altars inside the homes.
In the states, the day to commemorate ancestors is Halloween, or otherwise known as All Hallows’ Eve. As much as kids running around dressed as vampires and Iron Men doesn’t seem like a holiday to celebrate our past, Halloween originated as a day to go to a church and light the candles at the graves of our lost ones, just like what we do for o-bon here in Japan.
With o-bon being one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons, there is A LOT of traffic. Hotels fill up, public transport (and by that I mean trains) are literally so crowded that you can feel every little movement made by the person next to you, and trust me, that is NOT a pleasant thing to experience in the summer. Not so many plane tickets are available either as people are constantly flying around and in and out of the country.
This year, the peak of the travel season is expected to take place between August 11th and August 16th. With August 13th being a Saturday, many people prefer to take Friday, Monday and Tuesday off to make their break as long as six days. In order to stay out of major traffic, try not to head out of the major cities in the first days of o-bon and not to head into the major cities in the last days of o-bon, and if you really have to move in during those days, as hard as it may be, wake up super early to beat all the other travellers to it and to avoid traffic.
O–Bon: The Festival of Honouring Ancestors’ Spirits