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Obon Festival in Japan 2023: Date, History, Facts, Events

Obon is a 500-year-old Buddhist tradition commemorating progenitors. It is occasionally known as the festival of spirits. It is believed that spirits visit earth to reconcile with their living relatives.

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Obon Festival is an annual Japanese ceremony celebrated from the thirteenth to the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month. This year, the holiday will be observed between August 13 and August 15. Depending on the chosen calendar, it can also be conducted from July 13 to 15. Obon is comparable to the Day of the Dead in Mexico and the Hungry Ghost Festival in China. During the three-day celebration, the Japanese honour the spirits of their ancestors and renew their bonds. Despite being a celebration of mortality, Obon is more amusing than spooky. People participate in entertaining activities, folk dance, and musical events. They visit and sanitise ancestral graves, light ‘chochin’ lanterns, and consume traditional foods.

The background of Obon Festival

Obon is a 500-year-old Buddhist tradition commemorating progenitors. It is occasionally known as the festival of spirits. It is believed that spirits visit earth to reconcile with their living relatives. There is a legend associated with Obon’s past. By making offerings to other monks, Mogallana, a Buddhist monk who could see into the afterlife, prevented his deceased mother from going to torment. Mogallana began dancing with delight after achieving redemption on his mother’s behalf, and the others joined him to form a large circle. This dance style became known as Bon Odori dance.

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Obon shares some similarities with Halloween, but it is not intended to ward off evil spirits. Rather, the Japanese prepare delicacies and perform Bon Odori to greet their ancestors’ spirits. Additionally, many visit the graves of their ancestors and polish their surfaces. They donate vegetables, flowers, candles, and incense to local temples and altars. On the final day of Obon, participants are expected to send off their ancestors by releasing sky lanterns or lighting a pyre.

The largest bonfires are held on Daimonji Mountain in Kyoto. Buddhist priests light enormous effigies of kanji characters measuring a width of 1.6 metres. The Japanese believe that the fire’s illumination leads the spirits back to the afterlife. Shikoku, Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Nagasaki are the most popular places to visit in Japan if you want to experience it. Outside of Japan, the United States and Brazil celebrate Obon with tremendous fervour. These festivities take place primarily in residences and Buddhist temples. Additionally, cultural and food bazaars are conducted.

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Move to the rhythms of the Taiko instrument

Lose your guard and dance to your heart’s content in honour of Obon. You could also learn the traditional folk dance Bon Odori and join the performers.

Observe a grave

If you are Japanese or have a Japanese friend, accompany them to the graves of their ancestors and assist them clean the tombstone. Don’t neglect to offer your prayers to the deceased while you’re at it.

Dangle a lantern

A common Obon ritual involves releasing sky lanterns or floating lanterns down a river. It is believed that these torches lead spirits to the afterlife. As they flame out, they are viewed as a farewell to these departed loved ones.


Obon has Buddhist roots in India that date back 500 years.

The word ‘Obon’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Ullambana’, which means ‘to suspend upside down.’

Mid-July in the eastern regions of Japan, and mid-August in the southern regions, are two potential dates for Obon.

The Japanese insert wooden utensils into cooling foods such as eggplant, cucumber and watermelon to create spirit animals.

Gozan-no-Okuribi is the greatest bonfire lighting ceremony held during Obon in Japan.


Year Date Day
2023 August 13 Sunday
2024 August 13 Tuesday
2025 August 13 Wednesday
2026 August 13 Thursday
2027 August 13 Friday
Arshiya Khan
Arshiya Khan
Arshiya Khan is a Commerce graduate who loves to write on general and trending topics.

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