Obon is one of Japan’s most significant occasions. Commonly observed between Aug 13 and 16, it is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating family’s ancestors. It is believed the ancestors’ spirits return to this world during this week.
People place offerings in front of Buddhist alters at home, including horses and cows made of cucumbers and eggplants as means of transportation for the deceased.
To many Sasebo citizens, Obon is time for fireworks at cemetery and Spirit Boats. After cleaning the tombstones and offering prayers, many people enjoy handheld fireworks there, which is a (very!) unique custom of Nagasaki.
The Spirit Boat Procession, or Shoro Nagashi, is also an unique and traditional culture across Nagasaki prefecture. Beautifully decorated boats carrying the spirits of those that passed away that year are carried down streets amid clamor of gongs and firecrackers.
Lastly, Lantern Release, or Toro Nagashi (or Man Doro Nagashi) is a nation-wide ceremony in which participants float glowing paper lanterns down a river to commemorate the souls of the dead.
Today, all three events are held as more of a joyful celebration than a time of mourning.
In 2019, Spirit Boats will be parading through main streets of Sasebo on Aug 15 from late afternoon to around 21:00.
Some streets may be closed or restricted during these hours so remember to give yourself extra time for travel.
Toro Nagashi will be held at Sasebo River (in front of Nimitz Park) also on Aug 15 between 19:00-22:00.
NOTE: schedule may change due to approaching typhoon
Have Happy Obon-Holidays!