If you're going to Anime USA 2014, you can see us all talk about Japanese lore!
Last week, translator and writer Zack Davisson had a birthday; as did Charles, as did myself.
"Isn't it funny how we all have birthdays in or around Obon?" I mentioned the Obon Festival half-jokingly, but Obon is a curious blend of a fun festival and a somber remembrance; it comes from Buddhist teachings of hungry ghosts, and a story about a monk who saw his own mother hanging upside down in one of the hells. The mother entreated her son to say sutras and remember her, and eventually Obon became a time to remember those departed: in remembering, the spirits would be eased, merit accrued, and suffering would lessen or end.
Over time, Obon became a festival, with the Bon Odori (Obon circle dance) being one of the favorite - and most nostalgic - summer events. Different areas do different dances, and have their own ways of observing Obon. Some of them even have different times: while Obon is traditionally in the middle of the eighth month, the eighth month can be the modern July, or the modern August, depending on place and tradition. However, Obon is not counted as a national holiday according to the national calendars.
But people go to their family home or relatives' anyway, to observe and attend maybe a shrine or temple festival anyhow. You will see yukata just as easily as summer shorts or blouses or parasols/umbrellas to keep out the sun; and in the evening, when the weather is cooler, there may be more people out shopping or having fun. During festivals or the Bon dances, you may see taiko drumming also! Companies often have it as a company holiday time, and it is an expected time of year where people travel.
Obon is likened to a Western Halloween, Samhain, or the Day of the Dead of Hispanic areas; also because of Obon, and the heat & humidity of a Japanese summer, scary films and games often are released (or on special sale) in the summer to help "cool off" with the shivers the fear might create! It helps too that because of the heat, more people go out and about in the evenings and night when it's cooler, and nighttime of course is a time of boundary-crossing, things that go thump...
For example, earlier this summer, the Japanese horror visual novel/adventure Corpse Party was on sale, Higurashi When They Cry takes place in the summer, and so on.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
More information, see:
- Japan Society NY
- Japan Culture NYC - Obon 2013
- Ichiroya (Kimono / Yukata Flea Market)
- Kaede NYC - Kimono Styling, Dressing Classes, and more
- Hyakumonogatari - Translated Japanese Ghost Stories, Tales of The Strange
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