Despite Japan’s new interest with Halloween, it already has an old tradition with regards to commemorating the dead.
The festival of Obon, celebrated during July or August, is a 500-year old Buddhist custom where families visit, clean and decorate their ancestors’ graves with fruits and lanterns.
The name Obon, which is derived from the Sanskrit phrase meaning, “hanging upside down”, comes from a myth about a disciple of Buddha who was able to see his dead mother hanging upside-down in Buddhist hell. His intercession through offerings allowed his mother to be released, and his subsequent dance of joy became known as Bon Odori, or “Bon dance”. Bon Odori has many variations throughout the islands, although the typical dance consists of people circling a high wooden scaffold called a yagura.