2024/07/23 23:08

"Understanding Japan's Obon Festival"


"Understanding Japan's Obon Festival"

"Understanding Japan's Obon Festival"

Title: "Understanding the Bon Festival in August"

In August, many people in Japan take time off to return to their hometowns for what is commonly known as the Bon holiday. However, how well do we truly understand the significance of this Bon Festival? Most people might associate it with Buddhist practices, such as ancestral memorial services and visiting graves.

Surprisingly, the concept of ancestral memorial services is not originally related to Buddhism. Buddhism, centered around the teachings of Buddha, focuses on enlightenment and the liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, rather than the practice of memorializing ancestors. So, how did the Bon Festival become associated with Buddhism in Japan?

The idea of ancestral memorial services originated from Shinto rituals known as "sorei-sai," where ancestors are revered. Shinto, with its fundamental principle of "keishin suuso" (respecting both gods and ancestors), emphasizes the veneration of ancestors. While the term "Bon" is derived from the Buddhist "Ullambana" festival, initially, the focus was on Buddhist monks conducting rituals, not ancestral remembrance.

During the Edo period, the government implemented the danka system, requiring citizens to register with a temple to travel or secure employment. In this Buddhist-centric society, the government enforced the Buddhist-style practice of ancestral memorial services. Through this process, the Shinto practice of venerating ancestors and the Buddhist Ullambana festival merged, forming the present-day style of commemorating ancestors. Therefore, the concept of ancestral memorial services is a unique blend of Shinto and Buddhist elements that evolved independently in Japan. It's worth noting that this style of honoring ancestors is not universally practiced in all Buddhist countries.



(Shrine Person Operator, Representative of Culture J, Ltd., Hidetoshi Tojo)

Hidetoshi Tojo was born in 1972 in Saitama Prefecture and is the representative director of Culture J, Ltd. He is the direct descendant of Hideki Tojo and the 18th head of the family. Exploring a unique social welfare model in Japan, he turned his attention to the presence of shrines and Shinto. Advocating for cultural tourism through shrines, he aims to revitalize new local communities and cultural entertainment.

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