Zojoji Bon Odori Matsuri

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed spirits of one’s ancestors.  Obon Week has arrived in Japan as most factories and offices are closed, so many people are traveling back to their hometown for family reunions and to visit the graves of their departed relatives. 

Bon Odori (meaning simply Bon dance) is an event held during Obon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness toward one’s ancestors.

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A Bon Odori dance festival held at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo on July 31, 2009, where my lovely wife and her friend participated wearing their colorful yukatas (summer kimonos).


Zojoji was founded in 1393 as an orthodox and fundamental seminary for Jodo shu in the Kanto (east Japan) region.  The impressive Sangedatsumon front wooden gate, measures 21 meters in height, 28.7 meters in width and 17.6 meters in depth, was built in 1622.


With the landmark Tokyo Tower nearby in the background, the main building called Daiden (Hondo) was rebuilt in 1974 by combining the traditional Buddhist temple architecture with a cream of modern architecture.  Do you like the day and night shots?



Inside the temple grounds, there were many food stalls and children’s games which is common in any Japanese festival.

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The Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a yagura.  The yagura is usually also the bandstand for the musicians and singers of the Obon music.


Some dances proceed clockwise, and some dances proceed counter-clockwise around the yagura.  Some dances reverse during the dance and at times, people face the yagura and move towards and away from it.


The style of celebration varies in many aspects from region to region.  Each region has a respective local Bon dance, as well as different music accompanying the dance.  My wife and her friend had to learn 6 different Bon dances from her Nihon Buyo sensei (teacher), the same one whose performance we saw last year (see my blog post on Nihon Buyo at the National Theater Japan).


Watch this video I posted on YouTube so you can hear the catchy tune, you may start to join in and dance!

Do read my wife’s post about this on her blog where you can clearly see her writing is much more interesting and creative than mine (no wonder her blog gets 4x more traffic than mine!).  She also did a great job dancing.

2 thoughts on “Zojoji Bon Odori Matsuri

  1. Pingback: Tsukiji Honganji Noryo Bon Odori Taikai « Konnichiwa

  2. Pingback: Year In Review: Festivals « Konnichiwa

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