Celebrate: Obon 2014

I was going to start off this post complaining about the heat (again 😛 ) but a quick glance through the archives showed me that last year’s Obon post started off the same way. I suppose I’d better dial down the whining … autumn will be here soon enough, I guess!

Obon officially starts today, though the travel rush has been on since the weekend. For the first time in a few years, I’m staying home. I think I’m still recovering from tromping around Tohoku last week with a three-year-old in record-setting temperatures. I’m just gonna ride this holiday out in my artificially cooled house, thank you.

I wrote a little bit about Obon traditions in last year’s post so this year I’ll touch on  new one. I’ve been trying to teach my daughter the Bon Odori, or Bon Dance. It’s one of those things, like the Electric Slide, that everybody in Japan knows how to do and it’s danced at Obon festivals around the country. The dance welcomes back the ancestors’ souls but usually has to be danced in the evening, the prime time of day for the spirits to return.

There are three main styles to the Bon Dance, one of the most popular (and the one I learned years ago) being the Tankobushi, or “song of the coal miner”. The song’s actions mimic those of a miner digging coal and carrying it out from underground. The lyrics go something like this:

Tsuki ga deta deta                               (The moon has come out)
Tsuki ga deta, a yoi yoi                     (On the moon is out, Heave ho!)
Miike Tankō no ue ni deta                (Over Miike Coal Mine, the moon has come out)
Anmari entotsu ga takai no de       (The chimney is so high)
Sazoya otsukisan kemutakaro        ( I wonder if the moon chokes on the smoke)
Sa no yoi yoi                                          (Heave ho!)

The song’s actions involve digging, throwing up the arms and making the equivalent of an umpire’s “safe” call at the end. Yup, that’s about the best description I can give. 🙂 For a better idea, check out this link on youtube.

I’m a bit sorry that we missed our local summer matsuri this year but at least now I have more time to practice my dance moves before next year’s Obon!

Girls in yukata at our local festival last year
Girls in yukata at our local festival last year

3 thoughts on “Celebrate: Obon 2014

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    1. Soo desu ne?? Sheesh, “atsui” hardly even begins to describe some summer days in Japan! A bit of a reprieve with some rain today but the humidity is still there. Ah well. Fall is coming!!!

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