Satoyama Near Lake Biwa: Japanese Halloween Called Jizo-bon

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Last part of our summer holiday was Jizo-bon, which is a festival held at the end of August in Kansai region. You may see a small stone statue called Jizo while you’re traveling in Japan.


Jizo is said to be the guardian of children, and Jizo-bon is a festival to thank Jizo. This festival is usually held in each neighborhood community and families with children who go to elementary school and junior high school are in charge. Since my son started going to elementary school this year, we became a member of the organizing committee. Well, in our neighborhood, there is just one other family with kids going to elementary school, so the whole event was organized by two families.


There are a female jizo and a male jizo, and we had to build an altar for each one.


This is an altar for the male jizo. The people in the neighborhood bring gifts which are snacks. In fact, this is the reason why I called it Japanese Halloween. The snacks are later collected by the children and they take whatever they like and the remaining snacks are divided by the number of families who brought the gifts. The children will knock around the houses in the neighboorhood to give back these snacks. So the fact that kids receive snacks and they knock around the houses is similar to Halloween.


At night, the kids ring the temple bell, and we light up lanterns with children’s drawings.




Then people gather around the altar and chant with the monk.


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