Shinnyo-en Celebrates the Traditional Japanese Bon Festival

July 13, 2012
Tachikawa, Japan

The Bon Festival is reported to have been first celebrated in Japan in 606 C.E. by the Empress Suiko, Japan’s first female monarch (whose nephew, Prince Shotoku, was her regent, and is acknowledged for creating the first constitution for Japan and for supporting the widespread acceptance of Buddhism in Japan).

Some people in observing the Bon Festival will return to their ancestral family places and visit their ancestors’ graves. Most observe the holiday as a way to remember their ancestors – welcoming their ancestors’ spirits back into their thoughts and lives for a few days, and at the conclusion of the holiday sending the spirits back to the spiritual realm with celebrations, symbolic offerings of food, and sometimes including dancing and the symbolic launching of lanterns on a body of water.

At the Shinnyo-en Ullambana service, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, welcomed to the Shinnyo Ogen Temple altar all the spirits of Shinnyo members’ ancestors as well as all those who have died in natural disasters and war. Ancient, traditional food offerings to the ancestors’ spirits were placed on the altar, and the observance concluded with a lantern floating on a small pond outside the Shinnyo-en head temple.