With a little bit of luck your trip to Tokyo will coincide with Obon Festival In Japan, also known as the Festival of Souls, Bon Festival, or the Festival of Ancestors. In spite of the somewhat depressing theme, you’ll be surprised to see it’s one of the happiest Japanese celebrations, with dancing and drinking all night long. It’s a true traditional Japanese Festival, with the sound of Japanese drums, and the magical dim lights of the floating lanterns.
The Bon Odon is one of Tokyo’s signature summer events. You will find more than 200 Odon festivals held just in Tokyo.
- Watch or participate in the candle lighting, where a floating lanterns are placed in the river to float down to the ocean. People send off the spirits of their ancestors with the lanterns that have a lit candle inside.
- Watch a Bon Odori dance performance – you can even participate if you feel like it. Everyone’s welcome. Don’t be too self-conscious, just copy what others are doing. Everyone participates in the Bon-Odori folk dance – seniors, men, women, and even very young kids.
- Enjoy listening to the Japanese Taiko drums. The streets are filled with the sound of Traditional Obon music along with Modern Japanese pop music.
- During Obon, you can’t avoid the smell of Senko incense wafting through the streets.
This is definitely a tradition that will build memories to take home with you.
Recommended Tours in Obon Festival In Japan:
Day Tour 1 in Tokyo: Best of Tokyo
Day Tour 2 in Tokyo: Highlights
Day Tour 1 in Kyoto: The Best of Kyoto
Day Tour 2 in Kyoto: Cherry Blossoms, Shrines and Geisha
Nara Day tour
Nikko Day tour
Hakone Day tour
Kamakura and Yokohama Day tour
When is Obon Festival In Japan Celebrated
The festival lasts for three days. Bon festival starting date varies within different regions of Japan.
The Obon week in most of Japan is mid August and is part of Japan’s 3 major holidays, which means people travel a lot to celebrate with their families. Of the 3 holidays, especially Obon Festival In Japan is considered a family reunion holiday.
- In some areas of Tokyo, Obon is celebrated around July 15.
- In most areas of Japan, Obon is still celebrated around August 15, and it typically begins 13th and ends 16th of August, coinciding with the traditional lunar calendar.
Where is Obon Festival Celebrated In Tokyo
- Floating of the lanterns down the river takes place on the Sumida River Toro Ngashi Tokyo. The river will be lit up beautifully and the best view is from Azuma Bridge.
- Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple Noryo Bon Odori Taikai. Getting There: 1 minute walk from the subway Tsukiji Station
- Marunouchi Ondo Dai Bon Odori Taikai in Hibiya Park. Getting There: 2 minute walk from the subway Hibiya Station
- Oedo Matsuri Bon Odori Taikai. Getting There: Close to the subway Hamacho Station
- Tokyo Disney celebrates Obon numerous ways. Be sure to check their itinerary for complete details. Getting There: Disneyland Japan-Getting There Fast And Easy
See Also: Plan Your Trip To Tokyo Disneyland In 5 Easy Steps
History of The Japanese Bon Festival
The Festival of Obon or Bon Festival is an annual event held during the season of Hanabi. It is based on a centuries old Japanese Buddhist custom that focuses on honoring the spirits of the deceased. The lanterns are put out on the river to guide the ancestors’ spirits on their way back to the land of the deceased.
This Buddhist custom has become a family reunion holiday.
For over 500 years, Obon Festival In Japan has been celebrated and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori. On the last day, the spirits of the ancestors are brought back to the grave, and family crest chochin painted meant to guide the spirits are hung. It’s called okuri-bon.