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Japanese Buddhists celebrate Obon Festival
Japanese Buddhists honor their ancestors as they celebrate Obon on Monday. - photo by Massarah Mikati
Japanese Buddhists around the world celebrates their ancestry Monday with the Obon Festival.

Obon lasts from the 13th to the 15th day of the seventh month of the year, according to, usually celebrated in July or August depending on whether people follow the lunar or solar calendar.

The holiday is marked with visiting the graves of ancestors and one's birthplace, serving food at houses and temples, and placing floating lanterns into rivers, lakes and seas "in order to guide the (ancestors') spirits back into their world."

The most important aspect of the holiday, however, is dancing or Bon odori. According to the Buddhist Rev. Patti Usuki of the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, the dancing is preceded and followed by reflections. But the point of the practice is to let loose and express joy and gratitude for life.

"The memory of deceased loved ones should urge us to awaken to our deluded selves and live fully in reality," she wrote. "Just dance. Just BE, in every moment, and you will feel true fulfillment and pure, ego-less joy."

"It's called the dance for the dead, but it's actually in honor of your ancestors," Brian Komoto told Visalia Times-Delta. "So you're kind of welcoming your ancestors back home and the lanterns are lighting the way. We dance in celebration of our culture and our history."

Rev. Usuki says expressing such gratitude to loved ancestors is essential because "without them, we would not be who we are today." The entire world is interconnected, she said, therefore people have an infinite debt of gratitude.
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