Obon in Japan
Japanese culture

Obon is coming! Is there anything Muslims can enjoy?

The biggest Japanese festival.

Obon (お盆) is the biggest holiday in Japan, which takes place on 15th August. This tradition came from old China based on Buddhism. We believe that the door between this world and that of afterlife is open during this period, so that we welcome back spirit of our ancestors.

Also, because World War 2 ended on 15 August, there are some events held to remember the importance of peace.

On this day full of events, how can Muslims enjoy their Japan experience comfortably? Let’s see the tips today.

What do Japanese do on Obon?

As mentioned, it is a day to welcome the spirits of our ancestors, so Japanese people go back to the parents’ house. Company and school are closed during these days, and many people move to other cities. This is the reason why all the transportation are fully booked, including bullet train Shinkansen, bus, train and highways.

After people go back to their parents’ house, they clean the house and neighborhood, including the family’s cemetery. There is a saying that people should avoid going around the water, because this is where ancestors come from, so people are easily taken to their world.

Spirit of the ancestors ride on these horses made from cucumber or eggplant.

So, how can Muslims enjoy Obon?

Although the custom of Obon is not completely free from religious activity, there are some events and food items Muslims can enjoy.

Bon Odori (盆踊り)

Many of you may know that summer, especially middle of August is full of Japanese festivals. This is because of the custom of Obon. Festivals have started as a ritual to welcome back the spirits, so many of them are called Bonodori (盆踊り), Dance on Obon, held around 15 August.

Of course, foreigners are welcome to join the dance! Wearing traditional cloth called Yukata to take part in the festival will be an amazing experience in Japan.

Wondering if Kimono is comfortable as a Muslim?

Okuribi (送り火)

This custom is held at the end of Obon period, and the most famous one can be seen in Kyoto. It is a Bonfire to see off the spirits to go back to their world, thus the name is called Okuribi, sending-off fire.

The event in Kyoto is called Gozan no Okuribi (五山の送り火), sending-off fire at 5 mountains. Huge bonfires are lit in these mountains whose shapes mean Buddhist teaching. It is a culmination of Bon period, and you may see this event in the news.

To send off the spirits.

Fireworks (花火)

Fireworks is another joy of the summertime in Japan. This event is more held during summertime, because this event is also believed to please the spirits of our ancestors.

The date of fireworks varies, so you can choose the most convenient date. The more fireworks, the more people join, so the venue can be so crowded. Buying entrance ticket can be the option if you would like to avoid crowds.

Famous fireworks event can be crowded.

What is the Muslim-friendly meal for Obon?

There is no specific meal for Obon. It seems like each region has their own tradition, or people enjoy their mother’s dish together.

Instead, what we can recommend for Muslims is the food at festivals. You can read the following article to know what the recommended Muslim-friendly meals are at Japanese festivals.

Perfect guide for Japanese summer festivals!

Enjoy Japan in Summer!

Obon is a culmination of summer vacation, and it will be fully crowded no matter where you go during this period. However, this also means that there are full of events, so we are sure that you can enjoy your time in Japan so much.

Obon has a religious meaning, but it is a great opportunity for you to remember your ancestors, too. Enjoy your stay in Japan!