Art on Tuesday: Bon Festival


“Bon” 盆 is a traditional and very important summer festival in Japan, occurring in Mid-July and August every year. It is also called Lantern Festival. The Japanese believe, that the spirits of their ancestors are visiting their relatives on earth at this time. In order to help them finding their way lanterns are lit at the entrance and inside of their homes. Family Buddhist altars are decorated with fruits and vegetables.

The visit of the ancestors is celebrated with a Bon-odori 盆踊り, a Bon Dance. This is performed as a dance in a circle, the dancers are singing and clapping their hands.

At the end of the Bon Festival the dead ancestors are guided back by lanterns set on the river, at this time floating lanterns can be seen everywhere in Japan.


Left: The Seventh Month. Bon Festival, ukiyo e, 1793.
by Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎 (1760 -1849)

Middle: Bon Odori, ukiyo e, 1936.
by Takahashi Shôtei 高橋 松亭 (1871-1945)

Right: Bon no Tsuki, ukiyo e, 1887.
Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇 芳年 (1839-1892)

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