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Bon Odori – Day 2

bon odori written in kanji and hiragana japanese

First a little Japanese lesson for you. Bon Odori can be written in three ways in Japanese–ぼんおどり (all hiragana), 盆おどり (kanji and hiragana like the lanterns on my street pictured above), or 盆踊り (mostly kanji).

Bon (or o-bon) means the annual summer festival which celebrates or brings to mind the deceased. O-bon happens in both July and August, usually around the 15th of each month. In some parts of Japan it is only celebrated once, rather than in both months.

Odori simply means “dance.” Odoru is a verb meaning “to dance.” Put Bon and Odori together to get something that loosely means “dance of the dead.” Viewing a Bon Odori doesn’t conjure up visions of a dance of the dead however.

bon odori tokyo japan august 2009

After the magic that was the first night’s dance I made sure my family came with on the second night, even though my daughter had already fallen asleep again. I brought her in a nearly comatose state so perhaps it was a dance of the dead after all. 😉

I think they really enjoyed it too, especially watching the little girls, all dressed up, trying to learn the dances from their mothers and grandmothers. The taiko drumming that accompanies the dance is fun to experience as well.

black and white bon odori picture japanese lanterns

After each song an announcer thanks everyone for their participation and then introduces the following number. They probably did a dozen different songs, or more, each night. Each song has a different dance with which it is associated. Some of the participants were amazing in their ability to remember the steps and movements in each of the folk dances. I don’t think they ever do the bon dances outside of the night or two each year.

shinjuku-ku nishi-waseda jinja bon festival matsuri

My wife and daughter were invited to join the dance, but they politely declined.

The songs remained in my dreams both nights, going through my head over and over again. Maybe we’ll still be around next year (in July anyway) to catch another Bon Odori or two.

Check out the video of this taiko drummer I took on the first night. He was quite talented.

One Response to “Bon Odori – Day 2”

  1. 1

    Sounds like a lot of fun. You and your family are so lucky to be there.

    Maybe you should have arrived a few days earlier so your daughter wouldn’t end up so tired at night (I’m assuming it’s due to jet lag)