Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good-bye, Japan: One Magical Evening

On our very last evening in Japan, we went to see toro nagashi, "lantern offerings on the water." This Buddhist ceremony is part of the summer Obon festival, and it takes place many times throughout Japan during the month of July. It's a lovely ceremony that memorializes the spirits of the dead and ensures their safe passage to the other side. I had read that we could see this ceremony in Ueno Park, so we took the subway there; we didn't know exactly where in the park (other than Shinobazu Pond) it was taking place. We saw these lanterns, which are lovely (even though they are advertising Asahi beer!), and we figured we might be in the right place.

We walked by the most lush, dense lotus plants I've EVER seen, as far as the eye could see.

Then we came upon this scene: these are clearly Buddhist monks...some with basket-like things on their head, and one guy on his mobile phone! Wow...

There was a short procession, during which shakuhachi was played...
The monks chanted...
Then the lanterns were blessed, and another procession led down to the shores of the pond.
And then we--along with a quiet, murmuring crowd of Tokyoites--watched as the paper lanterns, symbolizing the souls of the departed, were lit and floated out onto the pond. They floated from all directions, from the shores and from boats rowed out into the middle of the pond. It took my breath away...it was so beautiful, like something from a dream.

Utterly magical...an unforgettable ending to an unforgettable journey. Sayonara, Japan, until the next time...

Note: most of these photos were taken by B.--thanks, sweetie!

3 comments:

Robin said...

OK, why am I crying? Beautiful post!

Anonymous said...

(You are) my pleasure!

--B/xxx

Dolores said...

Lovely. That B takes a good photo:-)! The aesthetics of Buddhism never cease to amaze me. Even those baskets (I've never seen basket-head monks before!) fit right in with the ensemble.