Riding on a cucumber
Posted on 15th Aug 2019 by Bob Heffill

The only formal public holiday during August in Japan is Mountain Day on the 12th. But O-bon, normally held over a period from 13th to 15th August, is a much more significant event in the annual calendar. Traditionally held in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, today it is mainly observed in August. The O-bon week sees millions of people traveling around Japan and abroad.

A Buddhist event commemorating one’s ancestors, it is believed that ancestral spirits return during O-bon to visit their families. It is similar to the Mexican Dias de Muertes Day of the Dead holiday. As well as hanging lanterns outside houses to guide the spirits, attention focuses on the Buddhist altar in the home where offerings including food and drink are placed, along with cucumbers with four chopsticks stuck into them. These represent horses which the spirits of the ancestors can ride on their journeys home.

Bon odori dances are also held around the country, the most famous being Tokushima’s Awa Odori.

You can learn more about the Awa Odori here.


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