Obon (お盆) is the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to their family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. During this time, the ancestor’s spirits are supposed to revisit the household altars.
The Tanabata legend tells of two lovers, Hikoboshi (Altair star) and Orihime (Vega star), who are separated by the “river of the heavens” (Milky Way) and are only allowed to meet once a year, on the night of July 7.
The event called Tanabata (Star) Festival relates to a romantic folk tale telling the story of the couple stars, the Lyre and Altair of Aquila that can only meet once a year on the night of July 7th (this day is called “Tanabata”). On this day, people of all ages will write their wishes on a strip of paper called “Tanzaku” and hang them on bamboo trees.
During the Urabon-E Festival, people worship the spirits of departed ancestors. The whole Otani Sobyo Cemetary, one of the largest one in Kyoto, is illuminated with lanterns placed next to each grave. The view of the hill, covered with these illuminated graves is something really special.
New Year’s is the most important festival/holiday of the Japanese year. It’s like Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. This is the time when families gather to feast and visit their local temples and shrines to pray for good fortune in the coming year.
In Japan, Spring is a very special time for everybody. Sure, it’s first and foremost the season of Cherry Blossom. But it’s much more than that. It’s in April that most businesses start their fiscal year. It’s in April that all schools or universities start. And of course, it’s in April that the nature cycle restarts, with flowers popping out of trees everywhere.
Quite a number of temples illuminate and open their garden to the public in the evening during the Fall and the Spring. The time is usually limited to a few weeks, and the dates are different for each place. These “Light Ups” are very popular and for good reason.
A lone pagoda rising overlooking the floating world of Gion below, Yasaka-no-To Pagoda is a lovely sight by day or night.
While most pagodas come complete with temples, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda stands mostly alone, the buildings of the temple of which it once belonged (Hokan-ji Temple) having been destroyed by fires, earthquakes and wars over the years.