Also known as: O-Bon (お盆), Aoyama-sama (青山様), Festival of the Dead, Lantern Festival
The O-Bon, or Lantern Festival, originates from the legend of the Buddhist monk Mogallana, who dances for joy when he rescues his mother from the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. This dance became the O-Bon, or "season of gathering joy", symbolizing a way to both welcome and bid farewell to departed loved ones. It is traditionally held July 13 July 15 in the eastern part of Japan and in August in the western part.
The Bon-Bon in the city of Matsumoto includes some traditions particular to the region; boys carrying a shrine of cedar leaves parade through the city while girls wearing yukatas walk along with red paper lanterns and sing.
The Festival of the Lake Waters at Lake Ashi begins the Hakone Summer Festival Week every year on July 31st. The festival started in ancient times as a ritual sacrifice to the nine-headed dragon which lives in Lake Ashi. In the current form of the festival, boats set out with offerings of red rice which are thrown into the lake with Shinto prayers, followed by a fireworks display.
Also known as: Matsu-Bon (松ぼん)
The Matsumoto Bon-Bon is the biggest summer festival in the prefecture of Nagano. It is held on the first Saturday in August and only borrows the name of Bon-Bon; it is, in actuality, more of a carnival.
During the festival, companies parade through the streets, dancing and singing. Local elementary, junior and senior high schools, government offices, and volunteers usually 'lead' the festival. In 2004, the 30th year of the festival, around 22,000 people participated in the parade, and with over 200,000 spectators.
Many historical sites are on display during this time, and the whole region becomes a pedestrian-only mall.
The dancing begins at around 6 pm and lasts until 8 pm for children, and can go past 9 pm for adults. There are also cultural demonstrations, such as Taiko drums, exhibitions of Japanese art forms, and games.
Also known as: Festival of the Weaver, Weaver Star Festival
A festival held on July 7th celebrating an ancient Chinese legend, in which Altair (the Cowherd Star) and Vega (the Weaver Star), who were divided by the River of Heaven (the Milky Way) come together for this one night of the year. On this day people decorate the branches of a bamboo with colored strings and strips of paper on which poems or proverbs have been written. The Tanabata Festival is most famous in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.