Tag Archives: obon

Japan Word of the Day #137 – Shōryōuma (Obon season tradition)

Today’s Word is: Shōryōuma (精霊馬)

Have you ever seen decorations made with cucumbers and eggplants like these in Japan?


They are called shōryōuma (精霊馬). Shōryō means spirits, and uma means horse. In obon season in August, people make these vegetable decorations symbolizing a horse (cucumber) and a cattle (eggplant). Obon is when spirits of the deceased are believed to visit the physical world, so the horse is supposed to carry those spirits from heaven quickly to our world, and the cow will bring them back to heaven slowly and comfortably on their way back. The cow can also carry offerings made to the spirits during obon.

Making shōryōuma is a fun activity for kids to engage in, and it’s also a great way to educate them on showing respect to the ones who have passed away.

Image source: FC2 Blog

Japan Word of the Day #130 – Obon

Today’s Word is: Obon (お盆)

Obon (お盆) is an annual tradition in Japan during summer to honor spirits of ancestors and deceased. The tradition originates from Buddhist custom commonly known as “ullambana,” which is pronounced in Japanese as “urabon.” The exact date changes depending on the area, but it’s most commonly celebrated on August 15th. Many businesses in Japan take days off around this time (including Rinkya’s shipping department!).

The most fun part of Obon is bon odori (盆踊り) festival. Bon odori is one of the many ways people show respect to the deceased. In this festival, people dance cheerfully to celebrate spirits of the dead that managed to joubutsu, or to go to heaven. Many people dress up in yukata (summer kimono) and enjoy the dance.

bon odori


Image source: Chitose