[registrars] What's happening in Eastern Japan (Kanto District) 13-16 July.
For those of you attending the ICANN and ISOC meetings in Yokohama, let me
add a bit of local flavor. (Some of you may have encountered difficulties
getting plane reservations during the period of 12 to 17 July. Read on and
you'll understand why.)
For residents of cities in Eastern and Northern Japan, the period of 13
through 16 July is one of the most sacred periods in the Japanese
calendar. On the 13th, families celebrate the return of the spirits of
ancestors to the family home. This is accompanied by the floating of
thousands of tiny rafts carrying a lighted candle and a small paper
lantern. Some of these lanterns are quite elaborate.
These crafts are placed in a river, lake or moat. Near our Tokyo Residence
is Chidori-ga-fuchi ("deep pool of a thousand birds"), which is a portion
of the moat around the Imperial Palace, constructed under the Shogun in the
early 17th Century. Adjacent to moat is the equivalent to the "Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier" in the U.S. Arlington National Cemetery. The site
contains the ashes of six unknown soldiers or sailors from the Pacific War
(WWII). A large assembly is held at this site with religious ceremonies,
funeral music, etc. At the end of the ceremony, each person is handed one
of these rafts with a lighted candle. They proceed across the park and
down to the water, where they place their raft in the moat. These float
out onto the moat at random, or rush to the end of the moat if there is a
These candles are said to light the way for the spirits of the departed to
return to the homes of their descendents.
The floating of the lanterns is conducted all over the Kanto District on
this date. (The same occurs in the Kansai (Western Japan and Southern
Japan) a month later; in the provinces, it takes place on a date dictated
by the lunar calendar). It will certainly be conducted within walking
distance of the meeting site, starting at dusk.
After the floating of the lanterns, Japanese go to a park where there is a
dance stand. These stands are perhaps 1.5 meters above the ground, perhaps
10 to 20 meters long, with a gaily decorated superstructure. There is a
stand for one or more drummers above the dance stage. The stage is
elliptical, experts dressed in Yuka (cotton kimono, decorated mostly in
indigo blue and white) demonstrate Japanese folk dances ("Odori"). The
dance is accompanied by Japanese folk songs ("minyo"), mostly recorded, but
with live (very lively:-) drummers. Around the dance stand there will be
concentric rows of Japanese, mixed men and/or women, some in Yuka, some in
street dress, in ever larger eclipses. They attempt to follow the dance
leaders on the stand. Foreigners are welcome to join in and learn these
Most of the dances are tied to cities or regions. The teams which take
turns on the stand are proficient in a large number of Odori. Teams spend
up to an hour on the stand, there is usually at least one man in each team,
some times several. Each team has its own pattern of Yuka. Several teams
take the stand in sequence over the evening, usually lasting till 21:00.
There are many stalls set up with food, drinks and trinkets. Fireworks are
sold and you can hear firecrackers going off all over the city.
The Odori can be seen Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, 13-16
July. On Sunday at dusk, there is a repeat of the floating of lanterns to
show the spirits of ancestors back to the spirit world.
Not much business takes place during Obon. Millions of people from the
Kansai will come to the Kanto if they have roots here. For the August
Obon, 2.5 million Tokyo residents will go to their family homes in the
Kansai. (Oh, the roads, trains and planes can be a mess). Many, many
Japanese take some of their vacation/holiday time during these periods.
It is a wonderful time to see the Japanese being their native selves. You
will be coming at a very auspicious time.
BobC and Jane