Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fires of Obon ・ お盆の送り火

To tell the truth, I didn't spend too much time in Inakadate during the past Obon season. Soon after work on Friday afternoon I went with my wife to her parent's home in Akita-city. There for most of the weekend I think we spent what you could call an average Japanese person's Obon.
On Saturday, along with my wife's mother and father we went to the temple and to the graveyard. At the graveyard we cleaned everything; set up the candles, incense, horses made from a cucumber and an eggplant and flowers; prayed and then left. On Sunday some friends and relatives came over for a while. Nothing too special I think.
Yesterday I drove home from Akita. As I was driving into Inakadate just after dark I saw something I have never seen before. Perhaps it is just a matter of good timing, but as I was coming into the village from Hirosaki, I saw several small fires in peoples front yards and gardens.
I read in textbooks in Anthropology and Sociology that Japanese people light fires during Obon to welcome or send off the spirits of ancestors. I have also been to several Obon dances where there is always a large fire, so therefore I recognized that this is probably what these people are doing. But in reality, yesterday in Inakadate was the first time that I have ever seen a private individual family light a fire like this.
「お 盆の 頃、日本人が先祖を迎えるまたは見送るために、火を点ける」ということは社会学や人類学の教科書で読んだことがあります。または、盆踊りに行って大きな火 が燃えていること も見たことがあります。だから、きのうの人たちが何をしているか分かりましたが、そのように個人の家族が自分の所で焚き火をすることは、きのうの 田舎館で初めてでした。

For someone who is interested in traditional Japanese culture, this was a good thing to see.

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