[Photos] Japanese Town Dances to Remember the Dead
The Japanese festival of Nishimonai Bon Odori
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▲ Nishimonai Bon Odori - Japanese Dance for the Dead
ⓒ2009 D.Weber

Obon is the time of year when many Japanese pay their respects to ancestral spirits. People will travel to their hometowns in order to pray at their ancestors' graves. It's believed the spirits of the departed return during the 3-day holiday held in mid-August. These returning spirits are not to be feared like the ones that come with Halloween. In fact, they are welcomed and many communities put on a variety of celebrations.

▲ Some dancers wear a black hood to represent deceased spirits
ⓒ2009 D.Weber

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

One of the most common features of Obon is the Bon Odori, a special dance for Obon. Bon Odori dances vary from region to region each having their own particular form.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

▲ Some of the dancers wear a straw hat known as amigasa
ⓒ2009 D.Weber

In the small town of Nishimonai in the northern prefecture of Akita, the locals perform a Bon Odori which is a mixture of an old harvest dance and a memorial to a fallen samurai lord.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

The Nishimonai Bon Odori is unique in that some of the dancers were a black hood to represents the spirits of the deceased. Other dancers wear a patchwork kimono of silk fabric known as hanui and a woven straw hat called a amigasa.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

▲ Some dancers wear hanui a patchwork kimono of silk fabric
ⓒ2009 D.Weber

The dancers' faces are obscured by the hoods and straw hats giving the dance a surreal quality.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

The singers sing in the old Akita dialect which many Japanese outside of Akita have difficulty understanding.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber

ⓒ2009 D.Weber


The Nishimonai Bon Odori takes place just after the traditional dates for Obon from August 16-18, the big day being the 18th where the dance for several hours in the evening.

ⓒ2009 D.Weber


ⓒ2009 D.Weber
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.

2009/09/22 오후 3:51
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