Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ekimae Plaza Summer Matsuri (Obon)

I woke this morning to some very loud speakers testing Matsuri music. We moved to the other side of our Apartment complex this spring. We are directly over the Matsuri now and as a result we get the full force of the noise. It was fun. Mihoko and I went to a wedding and my In-laws took the kids to the matsuri for an hour. They got to eat Kaki kori (Shaved ice) and yakitori (Skewered Chicken) and some other things. When we came back from the wedding I went out and took some picts with some of the neighborhood kids. A side note is that Obon originally was a festival to honor the dead or family that has passed away. In China they have the Ghost festival.

Wikipedia had this blurb: Bon Odori originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering.[3] Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this realm. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The disciple did this and, thus, saw his mother's release. He also began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple, happy because of his mother's release and grateful for his mother's kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy comes Bon Odori or "Bon Dance", a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated. The festival ends with Toro Nagashi, or the floating of lanterns. Paper lanterns are illuminated and then floated down rivers symbolically signaling the ancestral spirits' return to the world of the dead. This ceremony usually culminates in a fireworks display.
Luke 24:5 says: And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? This is in reference to the ladies seeking for Jesus' body and he was risen from the dead. The angels comment is fascinating because even them as spiritual beings knew dead meant dead and they weren't coming back to life. It seems to me that there is no way to communicate with the dead from their answer. So as Christian's we do not believe in worshiping the dead. We are not to seek to try to communicate with the dead because that leads to demonic activity that is deceptive and against God's desire for us to seek to communicate with him. Is it wrong for us to hang out with our neighbors while they drink beer and dance around a drum on a tower? Do Christians celebrate Halloween. I did as a kid and loved it. I was taught a sanitized version of the origins of Halloween and my parents just sought to allow us to have fun and not be imprisoned by legalism. In America do millions of kids and parents alike worship the devil on halloween or are they just out for some fun and candy. In Japan, the Obon festival has after 500 years of history, reached a similar point of celebration. It is part of the culture. The community centers, Apartment complexes, City halls, corporate companies and shopping centers all use the festival for marketing and sales and to get community people out together. I don't dance around the drum and I don't drink beer. But I will love on the kids and eat a hot dog and shaved ice. I met many of the parents of the kids for the first time since they work too much. I believe in these last days we are to take advantage of every opportunity we can to be real Christians in a real community and love on people.

A side note: One little boy has a ADD problem and he is 5 years old. His dad had a little too much to drink and did knock the boy on the head for something he did. Crying and running away he comes to me and knows I'm good for a hug. The tears dry and the smiles come and he says, "Hori Kun no Papa, eigo hanashitte kudasai." (Hori kun-is Nathan my son-please speak English to me. So I taught him, "Good Evening." He gave me a hug and ran back to his mother telling everyone on the way. "Good Evening, sore wa eigo no kon ban wa,-it's English for Kon Ban Wa." The community saw what I did and was very glad to have us in their apartment complex. I was very glad I could be there to comfort the boy and shine some love not only into his heart but those around who saw the whole thing. Jesus may not attend a pagan festival but then again as God he is everywhere and is wanting to express his love to all.
The only thing that puzzles me is that they are so strict about saving the environment and CO2 and they separate trash religiously, yet they have a festival that makes too much noise, puts toxic gas into the air with all the fireworks, and sends tons of trash into the rivers and oceans with the Toro Nagashi lanterns going to to the bottom of the sea. What is up with that double message. Japan could lower the Co2 rate by 80% just by having everyone quit smoking. That is going to be a great day on Earth when that industry is gone.

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