Obon Festivals


Clowns at Festival

This year’s event is scheduled for August 26-28, 2015

Obon in Okinawa takes place at a different time from the mainland of Japan, and on a different date each year. Many festivals in Okinawa are based on the old kyureki calendar, which is a lunar calendar so that it does not align with modern dates. Obon in Okinawa starts on the 15th day of the seventh month of the kyureki calendar.

Bon, or Obon is a three-day event with roots in the Buddhist and Confucian teachings that spread from China.  It is a time when families welcome back their dead ancestors and honor them before sending them back to the next life.  In modern days, it has become a time for family reunions and returns to birthplaces.  Families join together for the three days to celebrate their parted relatives and continue family traditions.

On Kumejima, the three day holiday usually arrives in mid to late August. On the second day of the festival locals around the island celebrate with small festivals and Eisa. While obon is usually a family affair, with people returning to their childhood homes to welcome back spirits of their ancestors on the first day, and send them away again on the third, in the middle everyone celebrates together.

On Kume Island, there is a tradition of Eisa performances on the second night of Kyubon.  There are several throughout the island, each with their own local customs. There were Eisa performances by children and adults, dancing, and live local music.  In essence, it is a time for the community to come together, just as families come together for the Kyubon days.

Unlike performance groups at other festivals, the Eisa during Kyubon is performed by members of the community with only a few weeks practice.  It is meant as part offering and welcome.  In addition to Eisa, a traditional bon odori or dance is performed to music.

While there are more than thirty neighborhoods (aza) in Kume Island, not every community has the resources to stage its own festival. Festivals often take place at Gima Higa, Janado, Magari, Kadekaru, and Maja Areas with Gima being the largest.