Amami Superman Photography

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Aug 24, 2010

Obon in Amami 2010

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Nagata Bochi
(Nagata Cemetary)

It's typical Japanese tradition to cremate the remains of family members passed away and keep the ashes in these monument like family graves. These stone monuments are called haka.

One of the three major holiday seasons in Japan is obon. Traditions for obon vary greatly throughout Japan, but one thing is certain, obon is a time for honoring one's ancestors. I don't know what obon traditions are like in other parts of Japan, but I'll tell you what they do here in Amami.

Obon usually last three days. Before obon starts, the family cleans house sort of like spring cleaning. They do this in order to receive the spirits of their ancestors. Obon is a Buddhist festival and it is believed that our ancestor's spirits come back to visit during this time.

At the beginning of obon, the family goes to their haka and pay their respect first.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Grandma Kaoru Paying Her Respect

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/50 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Jade Paying Hers

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF

Once respects are paid, a candle is lit and placed inside a lantern in order to help the spirits find their way back to home. The lantern is then carried back home all the while keeping the candle lit.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 116mm, 1/800 sec, f/4.8, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Keeping It Steady

Once home the spirits are then placed inside the family butsudan. A butsudan is kind of like a mini shrine inside families' homes. The spirits are kept their for the next 2 days. On the 3rd day, the spirits are then brought back to the the family haka in the same manner. Respects are paid and that marks the end of obon here in Amami.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Showing the Way

I kind of like this photo because the girl is holding on tightly to a bottle of Coca Cola. My grandfather loved Coke and you probably wouldn't need a lantern to help him find his way back home, just a bottle of Coke...

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 135mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF

Lanterns come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Jade has carried the same lantern for a few years now and it's not that fancy. Maybe next year we'll get a little nicer one to carry.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 72mm, 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Checking Out Some Bugs

I waited back some to see if I couldn't take some random photos of people walking by with their lanterns. I thought Jade and Hikari would have been home by then but as it turned out, they were waiting for me in the shade of these trees by a dried up riverbed checking out some bugs.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
I'm Good at Engrish

"Baby! Love your hug♥"

"Rainbow Revive. Walk on the Dreams."


Precure is pronounced purikyua and that actually comes from the English contraction, Pretty Cure. So go figure, I never could understand how they come up with names like this. Anyway, Precure is the name of a cartoon for young girls here in Japan.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Heading Home

So that was our trip to the cemetery to pick up the spirits of my wife's father's side of the family. I wasn't particularly pleased with the photos I took, especially the first one, but I needed one to show you what a typical Japanese cemetery looked like. You only see a small portion of the cemetery in the first photo. Nagata Bochi is actually very large and is probably much bigger than a football field. The haka are built right next to each other with no room in between and you get a sense of claustrophobia looking out across this garden of monuments.


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Keep the language clean please. I have family that see this. Tell us what part of the world you're in.