August 15th is a very important day for Japanese along with the New Year. This day has traditionally been observed as a Buddhist holiday called ‘obon‘. Although it is not a national holiday, many businesses are closed on this day.
The spirits of the dead are believed to return to their families of this world in ‘obon‘. So people go to their ancestors’ graves. Buddhist temples offer special services. Also, ‘bon’ dances (festive folk dances) and festivals are held to console and entertain departed souls.
Yesterday I saw a festival in my neighborhood. People played uplifting music, yelled and carried ‘mikoshi‘, portable shrine.
Especially this year in the earthquake and tsunami hit area, survivors had this holiday with special feelings welcoming the spirits of their loved ones who died of the disaster.
August 15th is also the anniversary of the end of World war 2. Japan surrendered on 8.15 in 1945. People commemorate war victims and appreciate the peace on this day.
It is a lively but solemn and significant day in Japan.