この記事は、岡山県北タウン情報誌「JAKEN」に掲載されました。ニック先生の日本の夏のお盆や夏祭りの体験を 是非原文で読んでみて下さい。 この記事の翻訳は「JAKEN」8月号の「ふしぎの國ジパング」のコーナーで紹介されました。
I never look forward to summer. Though rarely as hot as summers back home, the humidity here means there is almost no escape from the heat, whereas in Australia, getting under some shade usually takes care of the much drier heat problem there. Thankfully, the joyous celebrations of the obon period here means there is always something to look forward to in any Japanese summer.
Grilled meat on sticks, overpriced greasy food, cold beer, tacky trinkets that never last more than a few days, I’m crazy about the summer festivals! Mingling with the crowds at the festivals, women looking beautiful in yukatas, everyone trying to keep their cool and enjoy the wares for sale, or keeping the beat to the music. There is something of the friendly feeling of ohanami, but spring is a time for sitting in groups and slowly warming up after the cold winter, while the summer festivals seem to be more bustling, people moving energetically from one attraction to another with so much more to experience.
For many people I meet in Japan, it’s surprising to hear one of my fondest memories of Australian summers is the major fireworks display every January. For Japanese, fireworks in summer means obon, their thoughts turning to Japanese customs. For me, it’s a celebration of the founding of our nation. Fireworks displays, whether the huge booms over the Yoshii River, or groups of friends and families sharing the small sets they buy from local stores are truly the highlights of summer. The thunderous sounds echoing from neighboring towns almost every weekend in August seems to unify all of us in this area, sharing the celebrations.
Until recently I never realized the importance of the many bon dances that take place around the country. Some people told me it was just everyone going crazy in the heat, or any excuse to drink and jump around is good in the sweltering weather. I’m moved by the story of the very first obon dance, when the disciple of Buddha danced in celebration, filled with happiness and gratitude as he understood the hardships his ancestors underwent out of the purest love for all their descendants, even those not yet born. The obon dance is, of course, all those things for different people, but for this outsider looking in, it is the enormous unifying action that Japanese show in all festivals and celebrations that really remains at the core of the bon dance. The chance to share in something so joyous with neighbors and colleagues, even strangers, is a cultural sharing that is so central to every participant and observer of the dance and even makes this expat feel more and more at home.