Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
The Minaichi Odori dance is a unique folk performing art that has been passed down since the Muromachi period (1336-1573) on Oki-Chiburishima Island in Shimane Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of Chibu Village.
Minaichi Odori is said to be derived from Kyogen Furyu. The origin is unknown but it was dedicated when people prayed for a rich harvest. Also it was performed with different lyrics when people prayed for bringing rain or stopping wind.
Today it is dedicated to the god at Ichinomiya Shrine on August 15 on the old calendar. Villagers get together in the precinct and dance elegantly in circle to the song and rhythm of Japanese drums, waving folding fans in their hands. The drums in the center of the circle are beaten by local junior high school students.
The custom of Sharabune Okuri (Ship Send-Off) has been passed down in the Mita and Urago areas on Oki-Nishinoshima Island in Shimane Prefecture. Sharabune literally means “a boat for the spirit of the dead.” This tradition is unique to Nishinoshima and is the highlight of the Obon festival every year.
Early in the morning on August 16, children load the boats with gifts for the spirits of their deceased ancestors; then tow the boats out to sea, singing the song of Obon to send off the spirits. Local people watch calmly on the piers.
Constructed of straw and bamboo, the boats are colorfully decorated with strips of colored paper, on which prayers such as “Namu Amidabutsu (meaning “Homage to Amida Buddha) are written. The sight of the colorful boats gently floating on the blue sea toward the offing is beautiful but elegical. In time, the boats disappear in the far distance.
In the old times, each family built a small boat of its own, but from the Meiji period (1868-1912) and onward, a larger boat is made by a hamlet in the village. The replica of the boat is displayed at the Municipal Museum of Nature and Folk Culture.
Kagi Manto in Kaifuku in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, is the O-Bon festival on August 14, in which giant bonfires are lit on mountainside. It is a historic festival, dating back 890 years and is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of the city.
The festival originates in the memorial service, in which 108 torches were burned in dedication to the repose of the warrior monks who lost their lives in the battles between the Shingon and the Tendai sects of Buddhism from the Otoku to the Kanji eras (1084-1094) in the late Heian period.
108 torches called “Suzumi” are set on fire, forming a 200 meter line on the western side of Mt. Manto, where it is believed that the souls of warrior monks are enshrined. Seen from the foot of the mountain, the burning torches look a huge hook (“kagi” in Japanese); thereby it is called Kagi Manto, which literally means “the 10,000 torches in the shape of a hook.” The fire brightly burning against dark sky will lure you into the world of fantasy.
Fire Festival of Nanbu is a folk event held in Nanbu Town on the Fuji River in Yamanashi Prefecture. The history of the festival began in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) as a Bon event to see off for the souls and also to pray for the protection of the rice fields from insects, a form of seeing off the beetles, mushi okuri. It had been discontinued for a long time but was restarted in 1988. It is a representative summer event in the area along the Fuji River.
The festival is composed of four events; throwing torches, lantern offerings, 108 pine torches and Grand pine torch. The festival starts with the event of throwing torches, in which people toss burning torches into a straw beehive bound to a pole with a length of more than ten meters. In the event od Grand pine torch, blazes of the burning huge torch and the voices of priests reading mantra lead the spaectators to the world of fantasy. At 8:00 OM, 108 pine torches representing 108 illusions (bonno) of the human mind are lit up all at once, which creates a magnificent scenry. It looks as if the river is ablaze. It gives so deep an impression that spectators will never forget the exquisite scenry of this fire festival.
The Kanko Odori dance is performed during the Bon festival, at Ise, in Mie prefecture and surrounding areas. It is also known as the Shaguma Odori dance.
The Kanko Odori is basically a folk dance in which the dancers move and bang 'kanko' drums hanging from their chests. Their large and gorgeous headgear and decorations carried on their shoulders are the characteristic costumes of this elegant performance. 10 to 15 people form a circle in this Bon festival dance, which is carried out to commemorate ancestors.
There are two types of dance: one features the decorative headgear called 'shaguma'; the other features bamboo hats decorated with flowers and is an elegant dance. Shaguma is made from glued horsehair and is worn with a set of grass skirts, creating a beautiful and fascinating atmosphere.
The dancers in the Kanko Odori perform in parade, wearing white clothing, carrying the drums and banging them sometimes dancing energetically. The dance is very spectacular and dynamic.
Eisa is a Bon odori dance held in Okinawa during the Bon festival according to the lunar calendar.
Eisa appears in mentions of Naha (Okinawa) in the 'Records of the Joseon Dynasty' in 1479. It is believed that Eisa had started somewhere around this period. One idea suggests that the word 'eisa' derives from one of the Ryukyu 'omorosaushi' songs; another suggests that it comes from from the call 'eisaa, eisaaa'. Neither suggestion is certain, however.
During Eisa, people walk to each house within their own 'shima' (area). This is called 'michi-jyunae' and happens especially after the 15th, after the 'miokuri'. However, there are places where they do 'michi-jyunae' during the three days of Bon festival, according to the lunar calendar.
Eisa mainly consists of taiko drums and dances. Strenuous dances are performed to the beat of the drums, alongside singing from the 'jiutai' chorus. The dozens of dancers moving in step to the taiko drums and the dynamism of the whole, is part of the great attraction of Eisa.
The Owara-Wind Bon festival is a traditional event that began 300 years ago in Yatsuo town, Toyama Prefecture. Men and women wearing straw hats, happi coats and summer cotton kimonos ('yukata') dance to emotional, lilting folk songs known as 'Occhuu owara bushi'. Instruments such as shamisen and Chinese fiddle are used.
There are various stories about the derivation of this festival. Of all of these, the 'Citizen Parade Theory' from 1702 is the most likely. It seems that some important documents were returned by landowners to the townspeople, who then joyfully paraded through the town for three days. This became part of the annual Bon ancestor rituals held around that time, merging with harvest festivals to become the Owara-Wind Bon Festival. It also corresponds to a time of year when typhoons are said to strike.
Every year during September 1-3, the town becomes alive with more than 300,000 visitors.