【Japanese Culture】What is ‘Obon’ in Japan? A period to honor the spirit.



What is ‘Obon’ in Japan?

‘Obon’ is one of the traditional customs in Japan that respects for the spirit of ancestors in the middle of August.

During ‘Obon period’, there are many events such as festival, visiting a grave and so on, so that we welcome the spirit and spend the time with them.

It is common that companies in Japan close during this period and employee can take holidays.

‘Bon’ dance

‘Obon’ is a kind of summer tradition in Japan. If we go to the shrine In August, we may encounter the festival and dancing people. That is ‘Bon’ dance.

It’s a custom to calm the spirits of ancestors. You can see people wearing ‘Yukata’ and they dance with Japanese drum and whistle.

Honestly, only a few people know how to dance, so people just enjoy watching the dance.

Meaning of a cow and horse that are decorated by cucumber and eggplant.

There is a custom in Japan to make horses and cows with eggplants and cucumbers during ‘Obon’ season.

This means the horse and cows are made as a vehicle for the spirits of deceased and ancestors to come back home during ‘obon’ season.

We hope to come back home as early as possible by riding a cucumber of horse while we wish the spirits stay a little bit longer in this world and go back to the heaven slower and enjoy the scenery by riding a cow of eggplants.

In other words, cucumber is ‘a image of horse’ to come home fast and eggplant is a image of slow walking cow.

Why are they made by cucumber and eggplant? This is because cucumber and eggplant are summer vegetables and they are easy to obtain especially in ‘Obon season’.


‘Obon’ is one of the traditions in Japan to honor the ancestors. During this seasons, we can see festivals if you go to the shrine.

In addition, there are unique customs such as making a horse and cow by using cucumber and eggplant.

Take note that shops and offices may be closed in the middle of August because some of the companies determine ‘Obon period’ as a holiday.

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