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The Bon Festival is a major Japanese festival that has been celebrated for more than 500 years. It is commonly held in August, but is held every July in eastern Japan, and usually lasts for three days. It is popularly known as Obon, which is a Japanese Buddhist tradition to honor ancestral spirits.
See the fact file below for more information on the Bon Festival or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Bon Festival worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The Bon Festival’s origins can be traced back to the Ghost Festival of China which is a customary Taoist and Buddhist festival.
- The Ghost Festival originates from the story of a disciple of the Buddha named Mokuren who discovered that his mother had fallen and been suffering into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, also known as the realm of gaki.
- Mokuren sought Buddha’s advice as to how he could free his mother from that particular realm.
- Buddha told him to make offerings to certain Buddhist monks.
- Mokuren did as he was instructed, his mother was freed from the realm of gaki, and he danced out of joy.
- Obon comes from the Sanskrit term Ullambana which means “hanging upside down,” which connotes great suffering, particularly that of spirits.
- The Japanese Buddhist ritual called segaki is said to help mitigate the suffering of these spirits.
- Segaki means “feeding the hungry ghosts.”
- It is a ritual performed by offering alms to the gaki or muenbotoke. (spirits who have no living relatives).
- These spirits are believed to be tortured by intense hunger.
- There are three different times in a year when the Bon Festival is celebrated, depending on the area.
- Shichigatsu Bon, which is Bon in July, is based on the solar calendar and is held around the 15th of July in the Kantō region and the Tōhoku region.
- Over the span of three days during the festival, it is commonly believed that the ancestors’ spirits return to this world to visit their relatives.
- The festival has also been a time for families to get together.
- When people return to their hometowns, they pay a visit to the graves of their departed loved ones and remember their memories.
- Cleaning gravesites is a traditional activity done by family members.
- They also lay out a path to the house for the ancestors and prepare straw horses or oxen as a means of transportation.
- A spirit altar called shoryodana is put together in the home in front of the Buddhist family altar (or the Butsudan) to welcome the ancestral spirits.
- The spirit altar may also be furnished with flowers, fruit offerings, and incense.
- Most families ask a priest or monk to come and pray blessings for the spirits.
- The three-day festival traditionally starts with the lighting of fires called Mukaebi in order to guide the spirits home.
- Lanterns hung in front of houses may be used to represent fire.
- At the end of the celebration, families would send the spirits back to their permanent dwelling place with the guidance of fire in a ritual called Okuribi.
- Floating lanterns may be used as the guiding fire.
- The segaki ritual is held at Buddhist temples.
- Rice and water are the usual offerings given to the hungry ghosts with no living relatives.
- A shelf or rack for gaki called segaki-dana or gaki-dana is also traditionally placed at people’s homes.
- People traditionally wear yukata, a light cotton kimono, during the celebrations.
- Bon Odori which means Bon dance is a style of dance performed during the festival.
- Each region uses different songs and has a local dance that looks different from region to region.
- The songs can specifically be in reference to the spiritual message of the festival or could be local folk music.
- The typical Bon dance involves people standing in a circle around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura which also serves as the bandstand.
- Some dances involve the use of fans, while others involve the use of small wooden clappers called kachi-kachi or small colorful towels called tenugui.
- Some dances proceed clockwise around the yagura, while others proceed counter-clockwise.
- Tōrō nagashi is a Japanese ceremony traditionally performed on the last evening of the festival, in which people would float paper lanterns down a river which represents guidance to the souls.
- Tōrō is a term for “lantern,” while nagashi is a word for “cruise.”
Bon Festival Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about the Bon Festival across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Bon Festival which is commonly held in August but is held every July in eastern Japan and usually lasts for three days. It is popularly known as Obon, which is a Japanese Buddhist tradition to honor ancestral spirits.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Bon Festival Facts
- Terms To Remember
- Decode The Origin
- Fake Into Fact
- Three-Day Festival
- Picture Narrative
- Bon Odori Comics
- Live Tweeting
- In My Country
- Festival Overview
- Lantern Design
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Link will appear as Bon Festival Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 15, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.