If you’ve been in Matsumoto the past few days, you may have noticed the crowds of people all over the city. Many people throughout the country are on vacation for Obon, a major holiday in Japan honoring the ancestors and other deceased. One of the main activities of Obon festivities is the Bon Dance. With the Obon holiday drawing to a close, I headed to the grounds of Matsumoto Castle for the final day of Bon dancing there. The final day of Obon, August 16, is the day for sending the spirits back to the world beyond, and bonfires are often lit.
Despite the rain, people had still gathered to take part in the dancing. The Bon Dance brings out the whole family, many often dressed in yukata. The dance is by no means overtly religious. Dancers often proceed in a circle, going through repeated motions. If you watch for just a little while, you’ll be able to pick up the movements in no time!
Bon dances tend to reflect the lifestyle of a region, such as sowing a field, so they can vary from place to place. A traditional yukata is white and blue, but participants are welcome to wear yukata of any kind. Although music is now often played over speakers, a drum is often used in accompaniment.
I’ve only ever seen counterclockwise dancing, but clockwise dancing also occurs.
Although the dancing has ended for this year, please come dance with us next year!