Obon is an annual event where Buddhists and Confucians celebrate their ancestors. Buddhists and many Japanese people in general believe that every year during Obon their ancestor’s spirits will return from “beyond the grave” for three days to visit with relatives they left behind.
The highlight of summer in Japan is the Obon holiday season, when Bon Odori festivals are held throughout the country; the largest and most well known of these sometimes all-night dancing festivals are attended by thousands of people from the regions in which they are held.
The dancing itself is easy–repetitive and slow–so there’s no need for performance anxiety. There are various types of Bon Dancing throughout Japan, but they are all pretty easy to learn. Just start by first observing the the dancers, then join and try to mimic their movements, and you should be dancing like a pro within 20 minutes. OK, perhaps not like a pro, but no need to worry. While they offer Bon Odori practice sessions before these events most people do not actually attend them (most of the other participants don’t actually know how to do it either!).
This festival has been held every summer for more than 50 years in the Ebisu district. When the Obon lantern is lit attendees will dance around to the sound of drums and flutes, in their comfortable summer yukata. You can also find the usual assortment of food stalls and vendors.
This festival takes place in the Sengawa district of the city of Chofu, just on the border of Setagaya Ward, and a 15 minute train ride from Shinjuku station. You can follow bon dancers and taiko drummers around the narrow streets of the shopping arcade.
This festival was first held in 1932, but did not become and annual event until it was revived in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of Hibiya Park.
As this festival is located near the Tsukiji fish market, the “usual assortment” of food stalls offer particularly fresh and tasty treats!
The song and music in this festival actually originates from Osaka. Then called the Kawachi region, the flavor of Bon Odori spread throughout Japan and became popular in many places, including the Kinshicho district of Koto Ward.
— By Jason L. Gatewood