The Obon holidays are among the most important holidays of the year, if not the most important. They are generally, held from the 13th to the 16th of August in the Sanin Area, where I live. In some areas, they are held a little earlier. This is a deeply religious holiday and all people try to return to their homes to pay respect to their deceased ancestors, who are supposed to return to their homes on the 13th of August. After spending time with them, they are responsible to bid the souls farewell on the 16th when they go back to the Land of Spirits. They are solemn, beautiful and sincere occasions.


In Matsue, on the night of the 16th, thousands of little boats about a foot long with a paper lantern with a candle in each of them (toro nagashi), are released in Lake Shinji to represent the spirits on their return journey and many prayers are said to help them go back safely. It is a very beautiful and emotional event. The relatives who have travelled back to their homes for the Obon festival, now have to go back home themselves.There is a lot of traffic during this time, so please be careful. There are a lot of accidents these days.


The only other festival of this importance is the New Year’s Festival. Everyone comes home at this time too, but it is to have a good time with the family and renew ties that have become rusty due to absences which are caused by working in the big cities. Small towns and cities are much preferable to the trouble of a big place.


The difference in these two holidays is obvious. Obon is a Buddhist holiday and New Year’s Day is a Shinto holiday. Remember? I said that Buddhists take care of the dead, and the Shintoists have a good time and are happy people. For hundreds of years, the Japanese people have celebrated and respected the holidays of both religions and both religions are important to them. Each complements the other. Both of these festivals are very important and not going home during this time is very bad, so everyone who possibly can, goes. Trouble and expense are not considerations. The duty to go home is very demanding.

お盆とお正月には明快な違いがあります。お盆は仏教の祭事であるのに対し、お正月は神道の儀式です。私は先に仏教徒は、祖先の霊を敬い、神道を信仰する人は楽しく幸せな人生を過ごすと書いた事がありますが皆さん覚えていらっしゃいますか。 数百年もの間、日本の人々はこの異なる二つの宗教の祭日を祝って来ました。双方とも、日本の人々に取り重要で、互いに補完し合っています。 そして、この大切な祭事の際、故郷に帰らないのは大変良くない事とされ、人々は出来る限り帰省するよう努めます。それに伴う面倒や費用など問題ではありません。厳しい現実です。

Christianity is a newcomer in Japan and not well-known yet, with few followers. Still, it is used by the people for marriages and sometimes burials. Christmas is not holiday in Japan, but the children like to get presents and society recognizes Xmas only as a time to make the children happy. Only businesses profit from it. I believe this is called something like “Expedient Manifestation.” Keep only the best of everything foreign and forget the rest. I can’t fault that way of thinking. It is the Japanese way..


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