What is a Bong and how is it observed in Japan?

One of the most exciting holidays in Japan – Bon. He came to the country in the mid-seventh century together with Buddhism, and was originally observed only by the aristocracy. Then, as the spread of Buddhism, became popular among other segments of the population. Bon successfully combined with traditional Japanese beliefs about the return of the spirits of their ancestors and reunite them with the living. Gradually, the holiday lost its purely religious significance and, like many holidays, has become secular.

During the festival, friends exchange gifts, Japanese workers are often given on the last day of the holiday weekend, and many times their release to the pore, to visit their homes and mingle with the spirits of their ancestors and living relatives. On these same days, as the New year, workers and employees are paid bonuses (bonuses in Japan traditionally pay two times a year).

Despite the fact that Bon – all souls ‘ day, is celebrated this festival is a fun, colorful, noisy. It involves a lot of rituals, ceremonies, rituals. And while the details of holding vary depending on the venue, the General features are the same everywhere.

On the eve of the house are thoroughly cleaned. Enjoy a special treat. Before a home altar (similar to a small niche, must-have in everyone, even the poor, house) spread a small Mat on which lay memorial plaques (yhang) and put food for the dead. On ordinary days in such niches stands a vase of flowers or ikebana, calligraphy hanging picture or written a poem.

The Japanese go to the cemetery. Decorate the graves of the dead branches and koyamaki Sakaki (Shinto religion these sacred trees), put sprigs treats: mochi (rice cake), fruits and light smoke. Organizes fairs, where you can buy decorations, Goodies, and numerous soothsayers to learn their fate.

Before day holiday everywhere is lit countless lamps: in cemeteries, in front of houses, on the streets, in the parks. These lanterns illuminate the souls of the dead the way home. But in the mountains people go to the cemetery, carrying lanterns instead of torches of birch. Perhaps it is because of the abundance of light is sometimes called the Bon lantern Festival, although the latter are attributes of many traditional festivals.

On the last day of Bon festival again the lights are lit to indicate the souls of the dead way back. Attracts the attention of a romantic rite of launching small paper lanterns on a wooden stand, with a lighted candle inside. On the walls of the lanterns are written the words of the prayer, and sometimes the names of the deceased. This ceremony is performed wherever there is water: rivers, ponds, lakes and even at sea. It is especially colorful in Matsushima, one of the most beautiful places on the Pacific coast of Japan. Here floating chain of burning lanterns bizarre twists, repeating the intricate curves of the bays.

As farewell of lights options are enormously popular bonfires on the mountains around Kyoto, laid out in the form of various characters, the meaning of the concepts “large”, “ship”, “the Lotus Sutra”, “torii”. The red lights on the background of dark mountains are an unforgettable sight. This custom, according to legend, can be traced back to the Muromachi epoch (14-16 centuries), but in written sources first mentioned in 1637 in the chronicle of the Kinkakuji temple.

The most fun part of the festival is the dance – Bon-Odori that accompany it since the 15th century. During the festival of Bon dancing, young and old, men and women, parents and children, before Buddhist and Shinto temples, squares, streets, in parks, on the beach, etc. Bon-Odori – this rhythmic dance, which involved taking the graceful posture, like living statues, swaying to the beat, circling in ever-increasing tempo, his hands prihlebyvaja. Dances are accompanied by singing and drum beats. Songs and dances incessantly replace each other, and singers and dancers are truly indefatigable. Especially interesting to watch Bon-grant in rural areas.

For us, Europeans, the Japanese national custom, passed on from generation to generation the traditions seem unprecedented exotic. But for the Japanese, Bon and other holidays – an organic part of the living culture of today.

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