The Bon Festival in Hakodate is held from 13th though 15th of July. In other places in Japan, it is held in August. It related to the fact that Japan used to use lunar calendar. At the beginning of Meiji era, the government switched its calendar from lunar to solar. According to the lunar calendar, the Bon festival falls on August while based on solar calendar, it falls on July. Today, the Bon festival in August is prevalent in Japan and people in Hakodate used to celebrate the festival in August, too. But Hakodate Hachimangu Shrine, one of the biggest Shinto shrines in Hakodate, holds its festival on August 15th. So monks of Buddhist temples held a meeting and decided to celebrate the Bon festival in July according to the solar calendar in 1917. Since then, people in Hakodate celebrate the Bon festival in July.
By the way, what is the Bon festival? It is a Buddhist festival held for departed souls. During the festival, departed spirits are said to return their homes. So people welcome their ancestors’ back to their homes preparing good dishes and pay their respects to their ancestors’ graves to console the spirits.
In case of my parents’ home, my mother prepares dishes to offer to altars at home, to the temple, and to the grave. This year, she made red rice, dumplings, vinegared cucumber slices, boiled spinach tasted with sesame paste, cooked beans, nishime or various vegetables cooked in a pot, etc. As I took a plate of red rice to our family altar, it was decorated auspiciously with a pair of electric lanterns and other ornaments. My grandmother is religious and other altars are coexisting. There are alters for a Shinto god and a dragon god. In China and Japan, a dragon is believed as a god of ocean and controls weather. Besides them, a statue of Kompira, a Buddhist guardian deity is worshiped. During the festival, a statue of Kannon, a deity of mercy is also placed beside the family altar. Shinto is polytheistic religion and it can be often happened in other Japanese families.
When all the offertory dishes were ready, my father and brother came back from their work to go to a temple to which our family belongs and temple’s graveyard. At the temple, we ask a monk to make a pray for our ancestors. At the graveyard, we go to our family’s gravestone and offer flowers and prepared foods. Then ask a monk to pray for our ancestors.
It’s all what our family do during the Bon festival.
Akiko lives in a city next to Hakodate and loves to drive around Hakodate and surrounding area. I hope people who visit or live in the Southwest area of Hokkaido come to love the area, too. 函館の隣町在住で道南エリアのドライブ大好きAkikoです。道南を訪れたり、住んでいる人が土地を好きになってくれたらなぁ、と思います。