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Japan’s Festival of the Dead

via National Geographic

Every summer, the sleepy fishing village of Himeshima welcomes the dead home.

Observed throughout Japan, the annual Obon festival marks the return of deceased ancestors to Earth. Beliefs about the bonds between the living and dead are rooted in antiquity, but most scholars agree the celebration is based on the Buddhist sutra Urabon-kyō.

According to the scripture, one of Buddha’s disciples found his mother dwelling in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, where spirits suffer insatiable hunger and thirst in the afterlife. When he went to her with a bowl of rice, it turned to flame. The Buddha instructed him to set out food and drink for his deceased parents, and to present the monks with offerings on the 15th day of the seventh moon—this expression of gratitude and respect, he said, would free them from their infernal torments.

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