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Obon festivities

by J. C. Greenway
The Teas That Bind
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A short extract of a post that features in my book about the Great East Japan Earthquake, The Teas That Bind:

Often in class I find I am learning as much as the students. While they pick up the essentials of English grammar and usage, along with certain vignettes about British life, I am gaining too. Not merely an insight into Japan and its culture but also an alternative perspective on what it is to be human spinning around on this big rock we call home. Aside from all the surface differences, I am realising that people are people, with more in common than not.

This week I was given an insight into the Obon holiday. If I had thought about it at all it was as a nice long break in the middle of Japan’s hottest season, a chance to head home, cool my blood down a few degrees and catch up with much-missed friends and family. To sleep in my old bed under my mother’s roof again, stuff myself with sausages, roast potatoes and maybe a few Jaffa Cakes, luxuriate in the first two-week holiday since the Christmas break and tell my tales over pub tables, was my plan.

A lot of people think that Obon is just an excuse for a holiday, a chance to go overseas.  They are forgetting what it means

I was told. And I thought, how comforting. I am sure a lot of regular church attenders would say the same about Christmas and how it has become an excuse for too much food, bad TV and winter sun.

To read more of this post, please download a copy of The Teas That Bind, the story of my experiences in Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, available now from Amazon and Lulu.

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iidaruth 20 June 2011 - 10:42 am

The whole idea of Obon will be different for folks in Tohoku this year…so many having lost ancestral homes to return to, and hometowns being unrecognizable, and people living in shelters. Have you ever been to an Obon festival and seen the dances? Ask your students. Every region has their own dance related to the history or agriculture of that area (in Hadano, it’s planting tobacco)…I wonder if at least the dancing will be held in Tohoku, if not the fireworks, food stalls, and games that go along with Obon Festivals.?

Joanne Greenway 20 June 2011 - 9:28 pm

Thanks for commenting! I haven’t visited Obon yet, I only arrived in Japan at the end of August last year. I was told about the Kyoto and Nagasaki events and I loved the way Kyoto’s used the mountains but Nagasaki’s was to do with the sea and involved a parade of boats. It’s a shame I won’t be able to visit either city this year as I will be in Liverpool. Maybe next year…

キャロライン 20 June 2011 - 7:04 pm

Wow, I’m over emotional today or something, but all of this just makes me want to cry. I remember when I celebrated Obon with my host family and my host mom prepared things of her deceased husband. Tohoku… I can’t even imagine. And that makes me want to cry some more. I really hope that they don’t tone things down, I feel that people will need this.

Joanne Greenway 20 June 2011 - 9:33 pm

I completely agree, I hope it can be celebrated in a way that helps people but I am sure it’s going to feel too soon for many.
And I was fighting back tears in that class too, not for the first time since 11 March. Writing it down was all I could think of to do, although it feels like it isn’t enough and can never be, but my heart goes out to everyone.


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