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Tokyo Now# 12: Significance of Obon, meeting ancestors, ceremony

  • 2020.08.20

We are in the middle of very hot summer season. This season is called “Obon.” This season is for most workers, summer holiday period. Many people go back home to meet their family members and visit graves of their ancestors. However, since the novel coronavirus pandemic occurred, the form of the customs changed. People are advised not to travel around. At the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, one of our regular tour course, on 15 August, ceremony of burning lanterns called “Toro” was held in the backyard of the temple premise. Toro is a lantern that represents a soul of the dead coming down to the earth only in this season so we can greet the dead ancestors. Every year lanterns are floated on nearby Sumida river and later collected and burned to the heaven. A lot of people gathered on the riverside to see the lanterns floating on the river. Not to create big crowds, that festival was cancelled. Instead lanterns were burned directly and monks chanted along with the growing flame. (Photos of 2015 Obon lantern floating festival) As you know big events like Tokyo Olympics (postponed to 2021) were cancelled this year. In Asakusa, Sumida river firework festival […]

Tokyo Now#11: A summer flower Japanese loved for centuries

  • 2020.08.04

  We had unusually long rainy season this year. But it finally ended. Now that the hot summer is here in Tokyo area, we see summer flowers blooming everywhere. Speaking of summer flowers to grow at your house, what flower do you come up with first? In Japan, asagao (morning glory) has been the most popular flower to grow since Edo period (1600-1867). The first asagao boom sprang up in the first half of 19th century. In the town of Edo (Tokyo was called Edo then) many asagao growers appeared. As people wanted asagaos of variant shapes and colors, they developed various mutant asagaos. In the second half of 19th century the numbers of mutant asagaos grew up to 1200! Usually local open fairs where growers sell potted asagaos are held in early summer. But most of the fairs were suspended this year due to coronavirus. I was lucky to find historic asagao plants exhibited at the garden of the Japanese History Museum in Chiba prefecture. Many haiku poets took up asagao as subject. Here is the most famous one written by Kaga no Chino. Morning glory! Well bucket entangled Force me ask water (朝顔に つるべ取られて もらい水)   Chino From TFWT PA&C […]