JDF JapanDefenseFocus No.79

COLUMN

Obon

Gion Matsuri

Obon is one of Japan’s most recognized folk festivals held in August every year.

Obon festivities take place from July to August and include memorial services for ancestors. It is considered a time when ancestors who have passed on return to this world to spend time with family and then return to their world. Obon is said to connect elements of Japan’s ancient belief system of ancestral spirits with Buddhism.

Traditional festivals outside of Japan that are similar to Obon include Halloween in North America and Loi Krathong in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Various customs exist depending on the region, including welcoming the spirits of ancestors with paper lanterns and welcoming fires and sending off the spirits with floating lanterns and ceremonial bonfires.

Among these, the Awa Odori in Tokushima Prefecture is considered to be one of Japan’s three largest Obon related dance events. It features famous dances that celebrate the arrival of the spirits of ancestors for the Obon period.

The MSDF Tokushima Air Base is located in Tokushima Prefecture. The base houses the Air Training Group Tokushima. The base is also known for its Kamome-ren Dance Team that has performed the Awa Odori dance for more than half a century.

Every year this dance team comprising approx. 110 individuals that include Air Training Group Tokushima personnel and their families as well as local people and personnel from the GSDF 14th Aviation Squadron perform during the Awa Odori Festival.

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