Category Archives: Cultural Experiences

Toronagashi

Discover Bon Odori, Japan’s lively day of the dead festival dance

Many people around the world associate autumn with scary stories and graveyard visits, but Japan’s sweltering summer is the season for celebrations of the dead.

Obon (お盆), also known as the Bon Festival or Festival of Souls, is a Buddhist holiday honoring the spirits of fallen ancestors. It is believed that each year during this time, the souls of one’s relatives return to the world of the living to visit their kin, who in turn pay respects to the dead. 

Obon is deeply influential to the people and culture of Japan and is second only to New Year’s in importance when it comes to national holidays. It combines both contemplative reflection and exuberant celebration through rituals, festivals, and prayer.

The annual three-day celebration officially starts on August 13 and ends on August 15, making Obon a staple of summertime revelry.

Read on to learn about the traditions and customs of this centuries-old holiday, including the jubilant Bon Odori dance!

Obon customs — welcoming the dead back home

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Many people don yukata (light-weight kimonos) to attend summer festivals. (© midorisyu / Flickr)

Obon is a family-centric holiday that involves a pilgrimage to the gravesites of deceased loved ones. This can mean a long trip if one has left their hometown, so many people take time off work. Obon also coincides with students’ summer holidays. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the busiest times for domestic travel — and one of the most exciting!

Together, the family clean their ancestors’ gravestones, offer fresh flowers and sake, and pray.

Most people participate in the above, but other ancient traditions are still followed by some. These include placing horse and cow figurines, made of cucumber and eggplant respectively, outside of one’s home to guide the spirits.

Legend says these are vehicles for the dead to come and go. The horse helps the spirits return home quickly because the living wish to see them as soon as possible. The cow lets them go back to Anoyo (the “other world”) or Jodo (the Pure Land) slowly so they may enjoy the scenery on their way back to the afterlife.

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The figurines are believed to guide the spirits to and from the world of the living. (© katorisi / Wikicommons)

A gorgeous ceremony called Toronagashi (灯籠流し) is another feature of the festival that takes plaec at the very end. Lit paper lanterns are floated down rivers across the country to guide the spirits back to the world of the dead.

The highlight of Obon, however, is a dance called Bon Odori (盆踊り), which entertains the spirits during their visit home.

Bon Odori — a spirited dance for the souls of lost loved ones

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The famous Bon Odori dance. (© Rosino / Wikicommons)

The vibrant Bon Odori dance spectacle is the most renowned aspect of Obon.

Odori (踊り) is the Japanese word for dance. Specifically, it refers to a lively Japanese folk or theater dance. So, Bon Odori simply means “Bon Dance.”

Today, Bon Odori has more entertainment than spiritual value, its Buddhist roots largely forgotten. Yet it remains an important feature.

A typical Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura, which also serves as a bandstand for musicians. Obon dances tend to be repetitive, so it’s easy for anyone to learn the moves and join in — which is encouraged!

Folks around the country gather for Bon Odori, which has become a symbol of summer, in parks, shrines, and temples. However, the style of dance can vary from region to region and some areas are particularly famous for their Bon Odori celebrations. Below are the top three.

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A band entertaining the crowd from a yagura. (© Steve Rainwater / Flickr)

Awa Odori in Tokushima

Awa Odori, or the Awa Dance Festival, is held from August 12 to 15 in Tokushima Prefecture located on the island of Shikoku. It is the largest dance festival in Japan.

Thousands of people in choreographed groups dance through the streets day in and day out. During the daytime the dance is more restrained whereas at night it becomes frenzied. The entire city participates as well as visitors from all over the world.

Gujo Odori in Gifu 

Gujo Odori is the second-largest Bon Odori festival. It takes place from mid-July to early September, but the main event is Tetsuya Odori. Held from August 13 to 16, it involves people dancing from evening until dawn.

Gifu Prefecture is located between Osaka and Tokyo near Nagoya, making Gujo Odori the most accessible Bon Odori festival in Japan.

Nishimonai Bon Odori in Akita

The Nishimonai Bon Odori includes an ancient dance that is actually a fusion of two dances dating back to a harvest festival 700 years ago. Performed by local residents to the music of taiko drums, shamisen, and wooden flutes, it is one of the oldest traceable dances and is considered a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

At Luxury Travel Japan, we’re happy to help you design the festival experience of a lifetime. Check out our planned itineraries, or get in touch with us about customizing your own unforgettable Obon trip today!

PLANNING A TRIP TO JAPAN?

Don’t just plan a trip. Plan a life-changing, luxurious adventure.

Luxury Travel Japan presents a variety of proposals to meet your needs and provide the very best Japan holiday for you. 

Luxury means different things to different people. It could be a lavish hotel room, a fine restaurant, high-end shopping, exploring one’s personal interests to the fullest, having precious experiences, or even something intangible. Please let us know your top trip priorities by applying for your FREE initial itinerary proposal. Made exactly as you like it, naturally.

We have prepared a host of suggested itineraries for your consideration and inspiration, but all trips can be modified to best suit your needs.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

KYARY PAMYU PAMYU

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Japanese pop culture Princess きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ❤❤

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is well known for her 2011 single, “PonPonPon”, which made Japan’s top ten. The 2012 singles “Candy Candy” and “Fashion Monster” followed the success. She has since released three full-length albums, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution in 2012, Nanda Collection in 2013, and Pika Pika Fantajin in 2014.

If you are interested in Japanese cultural Experiences, Manga, Anime, pop culture, and Kawaii experiences, feel free to contact us.
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Please come to Japan not as if you coming merely for a tour, but as though you are coming to a place where you have a friend. We are waiting for you!
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“KOTO” AND “SHAMISEN” EXPERIENCE

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Play Traditional Instrument KOTO!
Hear Japanese traditional instruments “Koto” and “Shamisen” ensemble live music.
You will take a small lesson of Koto and make the ensemble playing famous “Sakura song” together♪
If you are interested in Japanese cultural Experiences, feel free to contact us.

Please come to Japan not as if you coming merely for a tour,
but as though you are coming to a place where you have a friend. We are waiting for you!

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koto-shamisen-experience
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koto-shamisen-experience-2-jpg

TOSENKYO – GEISHA EXPERIENCE

Geisha Experience- Tosenkyo
Geisha Experience- Tosenkyo

Players throw a Japanese folding fan at a target called a butterfly positioned on a pedestal.
They compete for points based on the shape formed by the thrown fan, the butterfly, and the pedestal.
This point system is quite complicated, so let’s enjoy a simplified version where players throw the fan and try to knock the butterfly from the pedestal for a point. Each challenger can throw the fan three times in total, alternating each throw between the two players.

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geisha-experience-tosenkyo

If you are interested in Japanese cultural Experiences, feel free to contact us.
contact@luxury-travel-japan.com

Please come to Japan not as if you coming merely for a tour, but as though you are coming to a place
where you have a friend. We are waiting for you!

TORA TORA – GEISHA EXPERIENCE

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This is a game similar to “rock-papaer-schissors”. Players dance to the song Tora Tora Tora,
which means Tiger Tiger Tiger.
At the end of the song, players pose as one of three charactoers: the tiger, the samurai,
or the old woman. The samurai beats the tiger, the tiger beats the old woman,
and the old woman beats the samurai because she is his mother.

If you are interested in Japanese cultural Experiences, feel free to contact us.
contact@luxury-travel-japan.com

Please come to Japan not as if you coming merely for a tour, but as though you are coming to a place
where you have a friend. We are waiting for you!

KOMPIRA FUNE FUNE – GEISHA EXPERIENCE

konpura-fune-fune-geisha-experience

This is a game played along with a song of the same name. Both players alternately tap the target on the table and their other hand to the rhythm of the song. However, if your opponent picks up the target, you must touch the table with a closed fist, without breaking the rhythm. You may also pick up the target to fool your opponent, up to three times in a row. You lose the game if you fail to tap properly, with an open hand on the target or fist on the table. . .

Song ♫
Kompira Fune Fune
Oite ni hokakete
Shura shu shu shu
Mawareba Shikoku wa
Sanshu Nakanogori Zozusan
Kompira Daigongen
Ichido mawareba

If you are interested in Japanese cultural Experiences, feel free to contact us.
contact@luxury-travel-japan.com

Please come to Japan not as if you coming merely for a tour, but as though you are coming to a place where you have a friend. We are waiting for you!

FESTIVAL SEASON

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Summer is the best season for festivals all over Japan. Probably it’s because this is the holiday season for most of the schools; the farmers have a short break before the harvest season begins and it is too hot to work anyway.

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The fireworks we see at these festivals are really magnificent and we often hear people exclaiming with surprise at the great explosions and lights. We all should go out and see these wonderful exhibitions that the city is giving us.

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In Japan, we have the Bon Celebration in August. This is one of the biggest and most important festivals throughout Japan. Everyone usually goes back to their home and join in the celebrations. During the Obon Festival, the dead relatives are supposed to comeback home for a visit. There are welcoming and departure ceremonies.

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Awaodori

It is a very hot season, but the festival is very nice and just right for the children and young people to have a wonderful time listening, watching, eating and playing.

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bonodori

It would be nice to visit a small town and enjoy a small town festival to appreciate the culture. It would help you to become more international.
This is the season of festivals. Let’s enjoy them.

Gion-Matsuri-Festival

BONSAI VILLAGE

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Bonsai Village

OMIYA BONSAI VILLAGE TOUR

My father has been doing Bonsai for over 30 years. He also stared to do the pottery just after the Bonsai to make the pots for his Bonsai. After the retirement, he spends time in his garden almost all day long to look after his plants.

About 20 years ago I was with my family in a souvenir shop in Venice, Italy. A shop owner came to me and asked about “Akadama”. I had a no idea about Akadama. I asked my father if he knew about and he said “Oh, wow !” as he was amazed to hear this word in Venice and then explained to me that Akadama was the soil for Bonsai specially pine trees etc. The owner did some questions about his Bonsai to my father enthusiastically. I thought “how international Bonsai became” looking over my father and Italian man speaking about Bonsai.

Are you interested in Bonsai? If so, you must visit the famous Bonsai Village in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture. (Travel Time: 30 min from Tokyo by bullet train)

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Bonsai Village

Omiya Bonsai Village was established in 1925.

A group of professional bonsai gardeners from Tokyo immigrated to this land after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, in search of spacious land, fresh air and suitable for making bonsai.

Upon its founding, the village had four residence requirements: 1. Possession of 10 or more bonsai 2. Agreeing to open their gardens to the public 3. No two-story houses 4. The use of hedges as live fencing The calm scenery of Omiya Bonsai Village has been preserved since the time it was established.

Visit the Bonsai Gardens in the Village

There are various kinds of plants in the gardens, such as coniferous trees, deciduous trees and accessory plants, which are used for bonsai. Different bonsai are created through the skillful work and the aesthetic sense of the bonsai master engaged in the creation of those bonsai. There are five bonsai gardens in Omiya Bonsai Village, and you can enjoy various bonsai created based on each owner’s feelings.

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Bonsai Village

Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

An excellent addition to the village in 2010 was the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which educates visitors about the various aspects of bonsai. English audio guides and well written English descriptions explain clearly how to appreciate the art form and highlight key points to take note of. The museum also exhibits the various styles of bonsai and accompanying elements such as pots and stones. It will also entail the systematic collection and publishing of documents related to the history and folklore of Bonsai.

Omiya Bonsai Festival

The Omiya Bonsai Festival is held on May 3-5 every year, when it bustles with the many bonsai lovers who gather there from throughout the country. It is also visited by many bonsai lovers from overseas as the worldwide mecca of bonsai.

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Bonsai Village

The Bonsai Convention April (Thu) 27 – 30 (Sun) 2017

The 1st World Bonsai Convention was held in Saitama City, Omiya in April 1989. At those time, international Bonsai convention had been held enthusiastically, but it was first that opened in far eastern and also called on the world to participate. The number of 1200 audiences (700 from overseas) that participated in the convention was the largest ever. The convention is held once every four years, and it has taken on a role spread of bonsai culture and international exchange.



“PLANNING A TRIP TO JAPAN?”

Don’t just plan a trip. Plan a life changing, luxurious adventure. Luxury Travel Japan presents a variety of proposals to meet your various needs and provides the very best Japan holiday for you. Luxury means different things to different people. It could be a hotel room, a fine restaurant, shopping, personal interests, precious experiences, or even something intangible. Please let us know your top trip priorities and apply for your free initial itinerary proposal. Made exactly as you like it, naturally.

We have a prepared a host of suggested itineraries for your consideration and inspiration, but all trips can be modified to best suit your needs.



東京
Tokyo

6 Days and 5 Nights

京都 Kyoto, Nara and Kobe

6 Days and 5 Nights

広島Western Honshu

14 Days and 13 Nights

近畿 Central & Western Honshu

12 Days and 11 Nights

東北 Discover Tohoku Region

6 Days and 5 Nights

四国
Shikoku

お遍路さんsize14 Days

九州
Kyushu

11 Days and 10 Nights

沖縄
Okinawa

7 Days and 6 Nights

雪国
Snow Experience

10 Days and 9 Nights

箱根
Hakone

2 Days and 1 night

鎌倉
Kamakura

Day Trip

高尾山
Mt. Takao

Day Trip

日光
Nikko

Day Trip

富士山
Mt. Fuji

2 Days and 1 Night