During お盆, the spirits of deceased relatives are said to return to the world of the living for a short visit. Everyone travels back to their ancestral homes, dances are held, special foods are eaten and graves are cleaned and tended. At the end of the o-bon period, the spirits are guided back safely to the afterlife with lanterns and fires.
My favourite place to experience this is in Kyoto, where the huge words and pictures are laid out on the sides of the mountains surrounding the city are set alight.
|Starbucks Kyoto decorated their cups on the day. Each mountain has a different design.|
There's a lovely short video taken on the lake below. It's a shame they used music instead of letting you hear the chanting and the soft splashes of the row boats, but it still conveys some of the atmosphere.