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Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer vacation and the Bon festival

I tend to be in poor health because of the use of air conditioners, so I sleep without the air conditioner on. I can't get to sleep from consecutive hot summer nights.

The month of August is summer vacation and is also the month for the dead in Japan.
The Bon festival is a Buddhist festival held from August 13th to 16th. In many areas, the festival is held according to the lunar calendar. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival.

Bon Festival lantern is a landmark for the spirits of ancestors, who use lanterns as landmarks to find their ways home. At the first Bon Festival following the death of a family member, the family hang an unpatterned white lantern outside and Bon Festival lanterns are sent from the family's relatives or people close to the member as offerings to the member.

Hanging scroll with a painting of lotuses and waterfowls is placed in the alcove.
We associate lotus with Buddhism. We can see lotuses planted in the soil of the pond at Many Buddhist temples. Lotus is also reagarded as a symbol of purity because it produces beautiful flowers in spite of growing from mud.

This is a pig-shaped burner for mosquito coil(mosquito-repellent incense, 蚊取り線香). Mosquito coils used to be made from pyrethrums, but most of them are done from pyrethroid that is a synthetic chemical compound now. Recently, the coils made from pyrethrums have been brought back as naturally-derived products.

Many companies offer fans(団扇, uchiwa) as an advertising medium, displaying company names and product names on them.


My grandmother used to chill the watermelon in well water.
This is a watermelon-shaped confection. Its red flesh is made of yokan(hard bean paste jelly).

Kakigouri(かき氷) is a Japanese dessert made from shaved ice flavored with syrup. When I was a child, I made it with a household snow cone maker.
Sei Shonagon (清少納言, c.966-1017) referred to shaved ice with boiled down ivy sap in the metallic bowl as sophisticated taste in her book, "The Pillow Book (枕草子, makura no soushi)".

Most boys are fond of catching beetles or stag beetles, but urban boys have few chances to catch them. So we can buy their larvae and adults to raise them at pet shops or Internet shopping sites.

Himawari(向日葵:sunflower) is a typical summer flower even in Japan.

Furin(風鈴:wind bell)

Sudare(簾:bamboo blind)

Radio taisou(ラジオ体操:radio physical exercises)
It was first broadcast on NHK radio in 1928. The exercises are designed to improve people's strength and health.
Students practice exercise to the music on the radio in parks or squares early morning during summer vacation. After the exercises, they get stamp marks for their attendance on the cards.

bottle rocket, pinwheel(ねずみ花火) and sparkling firework(線香花火)

We can buy a set of household fireworks including hand-held fireworks, bottle rockets, pinwheels(ねずみ花火) and sparkling fireworks(線香花火) at convenience stores or supermarkets.
In childhood, we set off fireworks with our parents outside the house during summer. Young people often do it on the beach.
Anyone can buy and sell household fireworks without a license.
Sparkling fireworks in Japan are unspectacular, but they are very popular among adults who see life's fleetingness in burning sparkling fireworks.
However, most of sparkling fireworks are made in China now.

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