obon2014-4In Japan, Obon is a pretty prominent festival usually held around August 15th. It is a festival/holiday to honour your ancestors. It is believed your ancestors return to the family during Obon.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirit’s of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their graves. It is when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.” – from Wikipedia

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Vegetable horse and cow made from cucumber and eggplant, so that our ancestors spirits will ride on a horse to rush home to us, and take the time on their way home riding a cow.

In modern Japan, Obon holiday is as important as Christmas or Thanksgiving holidays in North America. Two of the most important holidays in Japan are the new year and Obon, and people often take time off from work to go visit the families.  This is the time everyone is back at your parents’ (and often grandparents’) house and it’s a time for a reunion. I, too, have some fond memories of going to wash the family graves with my family, and also attending Bon-Odori (Neighbourhood festival with food vendors and dances)

Unfortunately, I don’t have my family’s grave here in Victoria. However, we have Ross Bay Cemetery.

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One of the first Japanese people arrived at Victoria as early as 1880, and during the Second World War, many Japanese people were interned to interior BC. After the war, very few returned to Victoria and many graves are abandoned.   You can read more about the history of Japanese graves in Ross Bay cemetery here. (Scroll down for English)

Ross Bay Cemetery houses more than 100 Japanese graves now, but most of them don’t have families any more to care for. Every year, Victoria Nikkel Cultural Society, Old Cemeteries Society, and Victoria Friendship Society jointly hold Obon ceremony and festival at Ross Bay Villa. This year, it will be held on Sunday, August 9th.

This is a time for us to get in touch with our past, expressing our true joy and gratitude to not only our immediate ancestors, but to all past causes and conditions that have allowed us to be here today. It is the ultimate recognition and celebration of the oneness of life that has existed in the past and that we continue to be a part of today. -VNCS Website

This is a free event open to the public. Please come help clean and honour the graves.

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12:30pm : Grave Washing (Cleaning supplies will be provided, but if you have gloves/buckets etc, they are always welcome)

Flower donations welcome. Please bring them at this time.

Photo credit: VNCS

Photo credit: VNCS

2:30pm:  Obon Service

Reverent Ikuta from Steveston will provide service

3:30pm: Obon Matsuri (Festival) at Ross Bay Villa

Enterianment (Uminari Taiko, Furusato Dancers and Minyo by Rina El-Nahas), light refreshment (including Kakigoori-shaved ice),

and Suika-Wari (Japanese watermelon smashing game)

Suika-wari

Suika-wari

You can read more about Obon Ceremony and Festival at Ross Bay here at VNCS website.