Bon Festival, August 8, 2009

The Bon Festivl, or “Obon” (pronounce “oh-BONE”) as it is popularly called in Japan, is a family and community observance that takes place over a three-day period. Next to the New Year, Obon is the most important event of the Japanese ritual calendar-a time when the soul or spirits of deceased members of households are thought to return for a brief visit to the world of the living. Family members will return home solemn occasions, Obon strives to honor the ancestors and thank them for their contributions toward the quality of life enjoyed by the living.
Obon is observed on the 13th, 14th, and 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Today some areas of Japan using the western calendar celebrate the holiday from August 13th through 15th.
The event begins with visits to the family grave. First, family members tidy up the gravesite. They then replenish offerings left in front of the stone, which usually include springs of umbrella pine (koya-maki) and the broad-leaf evergreen (sakaki), glutinous rice cake (mocha), and fruit. As night falls, lighted paper lanterns are placed at each gravesite and the air becomes thick with the smoke of burning incense.
At home, the family builds a welcoming fire (mukae-bi) of hemp stalks in front of the house. In front of the “butsudan”, the household altar where mortuary tables (ihai) are kept, the family sets out additional offerings, including simple animal figures made from cucumber and eggplant that represent the means by which the ancestors make their journey.
On the second night of Obon, families gather in an open space in the village or town to perform Bon odori, folk dancing intended for the entertainment of the visiting spirits. Bon dancing evolved from a ritual of Buddhist chants and folk dance called “odori nembutsu.”
Participants in Bon dancing-men, women, and children-move in circles around a temporary platform (yagura) upon which the accompanying drummers and flutists stand. Dancing may also take the form of a processional through the city streets. The spectacle may continue well into the night under the light of paper lanterns. In large communities, a lively street fair with games amusements, food, and shopping stalls contribute to the festivities.
The ancestors take their leave and return to the other world on the third and last night of Obon. Farewell fires (okuribi) are lit illuminating the way for the departing spirits. In many communities, celebrants float simple paper lanterns (toronagashi) on bodies of water. Families who have experienced deaths in the past year may float elaborately decorated boats (shoryobune) to transport the recently deceased away from their first Bon festival.

October 3, 2009. Save the date! It’s time again for the Sister Cities Golf Tournament.

This year we have a group of 7 excellent students from Atlantic H.S., Boca Raton H.S. and American Heritage H.S. who will be traveling to Japan. With rising costs and falling donations, we need your help more than ever. If you play golf and can get a foursome together, that would be great. We also need hole sponsors, and we are always looking for raffle prizes.

I hope you will consider supporting this tournament. The trip to Japan is a once in a lifetime experience for our students, and they truly appreciate your support. Thank you.

A flyer is attached under the right pane entitled Annual Goft Tournament.