Obon is a joyous three day festival held in Japan during mid-July to honor ones deceased relatives. It is believed during this sacred time that the spirits of the ancestors return to the earth to visit their families. The festival is based on the story of a Buddhist disciple named Mokureen Sonja. Mokureen is said to have had a vision of his deceased mother. In his vision he saw that his mother had stumbled into the pathway of the Hungry Ghost and was suffering. Mokureen, desperate to save his mother asked the Buddha for guidance. He is told to make many offering to the Buddhist monks who had completed their mid-July retreat. Mokureen complies and his mother is released. Overjoyed by her release he begins to dance. The dance is called the Bon Oduri, the dance of joy and it remains one of the most common customs of the Obon festival. The dance is generally performed in a circle and everyone is welcome to participate. On the first day of the festival lanterns are hung to welcome and guide the family spirits to the house and food is prepared for the living and the dead. Extra food is also made to make
offerings at the temples. Many ancestral graves are cleaned at this time as well. On the final day of Obon the lanterns are set afloat in rivers and streams to guide the spirits back to the heavens.