Bon odori
Bon odori

O-Bon is an annual memorial festival held in Japan during July or August during which the living entertain the dead. Paper lanterns decorated with the family insignia or small fires (mukaebi) are set out to welcome the visitors, guiding the spirits either to the family tomb (ohaka) or to the domestic altar where a special place is made for the spirits where they are feted and fed with tiny symbolic meals.

Special dances (bon odori) are performed, and at the end of the festival, floating lanterns (toro nagashi) are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back to their world. In several places the small farewell bonfires (okuribi) have developed into large collective events, for example the Daimonji Okuribi which takes place on the hills around Kyoto.

Temples throughout Japan hold manto (ten thousand lights) and sento (one thousand lights) ceremonies, during which participants seek guidance from their ancestors.

For more, see article on O-Bon.