Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween and Obon

Complying with onigiri’s request, I will write about Halloween situation in Japan. Halloween is getting one of popular event in Japan, but not as much as like Christmas. Most people who have a Halloween party tend to enjoy disguise which is like Kosupure, and it is not common yet to do “trick or treat” visiting houses.

There is a similar ceremony with Halloween in Japan called “Obon (お盆)”. Obon is the Festival of the Dead which mainly indicates for 3 to 5 days since August 15th,. It up to firms but, most of them generally takes the term off as a summer vacation.

During Obon, people go back to their home town. As its ceremony, people call deceased to their home and hold a memorial service by reciting a sutra. Besides, family pays a visit to ancestor’s grave. People clean the grave and place offerings. It depends on family but my family offerings ancestor’s favorite food like sweets and Sake. After the ceremony, Bon-Odori, Bon dance is held at a temple. The dance is a slow dance and people dance wearing Yukata, an informal cotton kimono for summer wear. Bon-Odori is said as an imitation that dead people who relieved of a pain at a hell are dancing with pleasure.

Originally, Obon was considered to come from Buddhism, but it contains less religious factor actually. Consequently, a lot of Japanese people tend to travel especially to abroad using this term. If you want to visit Japan, it maybe better to avoid these days since Narita air port would be congested.


キノっち(Ryohei) said...

Oh, I forgaot Obon....
Is this one of tendency that Halloween is familier than obon among students in Japan??
Without consideration about the tendency, it is difficult fot students being in a rooming house near the campus far from ancestor's
grave to visit.
However, I think it is more important to do that than enjoy Holloween itself for Japanise.
If it is convenient for me, I wanna visit grave.

Pierre-Yann said...

In France, Halloween has fallen practically to a no event. I just heard a little on radio, and see some children doing houses visit, but nothing like the big commercial event it was 2 or 3 years ago.
In fact, Halloween isn't European, and we have in the same week the holiday for all the saints, followed by the day of the dead.
So people still visit grave (and put a lot of flowers on them).

Kuntry Konfession said...

those kids are sooooo cute!

kayanon said...


For me, Obon is more realistic and important event than Halloween. It's just because I have never joined Halloween, probably.

Yeah, even coming back home is not easy for collage studetns, some of them are just want to be away from their parents though...

kayanon said...


In some points, Halloween and Obon is very similar. In just different way people think of ancestors. So, Halloween comes from North America, right?

kayanon said...


Thank you! I am one of them actually.

Taken about 18 years ago, I think.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you thank you for this blog!! I am an American college student who just got interested in Japanese culture this year...this is just what I need to learn about Japan! I dance yosakoi, and I'm planning on learning the language next fall. Thanks for sharing your culture on this blog! :)

kayanon said...

thank you for your comment, greta! I'm glad that you liked my blog. I hope you will visit here again!

Pierre-Yann said...

Yes, Halloween is comming from North America. But I heard that it's based on one old celtic holiday, the same base from which come the european christian holiday

ross said...

i am unsure how halloween got started over here in america, even though this is really the only place it is celebrated now, with the costumes and children going door to door for candy. i believe it has its roots in celtic or pagan celebrations, from a couple of thousand years ago in great britain and ireland. it was the day that the living could contact the dead. the costumes were to disguise yourself so that the dead did not know who you really were, so then they could not possess your soul. gifts were given to keep the spirits happy, kind of like a bribe i suppose, so they would not haunt the others for the next year. i think this is where the tradition of giving candy came from. "trick or treat" as the children say, demanding candy or a trick would be played on you. it is also an important day for occultists.

i have visited places, mostly in asia, where the really important day is november 1, or all saints day, where the families go and visit their departed loved ones at the cemetary, clean the site and leave offerings, such as favorite foods, wine and cigarettes, are some things i have seen. unfortunately, this is not practiced in america at all. i imagine most people here have never heard of it.

Garrett said...

Kayanon, nice blog. 英語が上手ですね。以前、留学したことがありましたか?
Do you really think Obon and Halloween are similar? Other than there being references to dead people involved, I think the two holidays are almost opposites. Obon is about reverence for the dead, but Halloween is about fear of the dead.

Ross, All Saints Day is the reason for Halloween, or All Hallows Eve - it's celebrated by Catholics in the US as a religious holiday, albeit without the offerings you saw in Asia.

kayanon said...



I think Obon and Halloween is similar in a few points. Anyway, both of them are getting more like entertainment event without religion thing, I think.

kayanon said...


>it was the day that the living could contact the dead.

Hey, thanks for explanation about Halloween!

Also, in the point, Halloween and Obon is the same.

So, most asian countries have similar way of visitng graves, I suppose.

kayanon said...


I thought Halloween comes from Europe. Anyway, thanks!