Dancing for ancestral souls
Dancing, this is something natural and most delighting to just about
every human being. In Japan, this dancing tends to take a difference.
There are several
Traditional drum custom
traditional dances in Japan, but the one of the most famous and
common dance is the Bon dance, which is known as Bon Odori in Japanese.
This dance is performed during the Bon Festival which is held every
summer, throughout Japan.
The word bon means welcoming ancestors’ souls and holding a memorial
service for the souls. A Bon week is celebrated annually in August, and
these celebrations continue for about a week. During the Bon festival
time, most often than not relatives of families gather and hold a
memorial service for their ancestors. They enjoy being in a reminiscent
mood. Performing this tradition helps them remember their ancestors and
builds a closer relationship with them. This celebration of the dead is
a tradition that has come to Japan from Buddhism that is being practiced
in China and Korea.
The Bon Festival is held during the Bon week, and people gather at
near-by open-spaces or parks. Thereafter they dance to traditional
Japanese music, while enjoying various Japanese sweetmeats and
assortment of snacks. The music played is generally cheerful. This is to
welcome the ancestor’s souls in to a happy environment. By doing this
they are able to create a wonderful ambience. The Japanese feel
duty-bound to make a cheerful, pleasurable and welcoming mood. Moreover,
the Bon Dance is generally held at night because the Japanese people
believe that the ancestors’ souls come back in the night.
In Sri Lanka too there is a community of Japanese. Not disconcerted
by the fact that they are miles from their native country, the folks
here too organize a Bon Odori festival annually. This annual
get-together shows the unity and the solidarity of the Japanese as a
community. This is generally held in July and a large crowd of Japanese
living in Sri Lanka gather to socialize as well as to celebrate this
festival. Not only the Japanese, but Sri Lankans as well as other
foreign nationals too participate and find this festival entertaining!
Ambassador Kunio Takahashi handing over the Bon Odori
Japanese girls in Kimono. Pictures by Sulochana Gamage
The festival is organized in Sri Lanka by the Japanese Solidarity
Association of Sri Lanka together with the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka
and the Japanese Graduates’ Alumni Association of Sri Lanka (JAGAAS).
The Japanese Ambassador in Sri Lanka Kunio Takahashi and the Principal
of the Japanese School in Colombo Okazaki Kazuo were seen clad in the
traditional Japanese costume.
Young and old alike come here to enjoy a nice outing at night. The
youth gather to dance and taste the various foods, whilst catching up
with their friends.
There is hardly any difference when comparing the Bon Odori festivals
I was able to enjoy whilst living in Japan to the festivals organized
here in Sri Lanka.
Drumming and dancing
The highlight of the night is the centre stage where the drumming and
the dancing takes place. The manner in which the wadaiko- ‘Wa’, meaning
‘Japanese’, and ‘Taiko’, meaning ‘drum’- is played is very attractive to
watch. Children come eagerly on to the stage to dance to their favorite
Japanese cartoon songs, such as the theme songs of Maruko and Anpanman.
Even though the technology in Japan has developed over the years, the
Japanese people have not forgotten their traditions. They continue to
uphold their traditions by organizing Bon Festivals and Bon Dances
throughout the country-and in this case, outside the country as
well-every summer. Japanese people will continue to venerate this
tradition, and to respect the soul of their ancestors.