This week was Obon, a major holiday which is a sort of festival of the dead (though that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification). We visited Nara for the festivities, which unfortunately were rather less festive than we’d expected. There’s normally a matsuri, or festival, accompanying the more ritualistic parts of the celebration, but apparently Nara has split the matsuri and the main ritual components across two days. We went to Nara Park on August 15th, which meant we could see the ritual, but missed the fun and street food of the matsuri.
Still, Nara’s a wonderful place, and as always we did see some very cool sights.
The main event of the evening, as it were, was the Daimonji, a ritual wherein fires are lit on a mountainside that form the kanji dai, or “big.” I don’t really understand the significance of this character in this context, but this brief post from a Nara tourism website gives a little more information. Here’s a still from my crappy smartphone recording (the lights floating UFO-like above the crowd are the fires on the mountainside forming the dai character):
It would have been nice to get the full matsuri experience. Instead I had to content myself with some mango soft-serve and sub-par kara age (fried chicken). Still, it was fun, and I always love visiting the Kansai region.
Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that Halloween stuff started appearing this past week or so, as both Obon and Halloween have to do with the spirits of the dead. We grabbed a few little pieces of kitsch at a Seria (a hundred-yen store, basically a dollar store). Because as we all know, Halloween starts in August.
The two large graphics are actually glass coasters which proclaim, in glorious Engrish, “Now it is HALLOWEEN today! I will carry out appearance of a pumpkin and will surprise everybody!” If that doesn’t get you in the spirit, nothing will.