Obon: The festival of the dead
Obon (お盆): The festival of the dead takes place mid-August throughout Japan, although some regions celebrate it in July in connection with the lunar calendar.
Many Japanese people take days off to return to their hometown to pay tribute to their ancestors. Obon is the time during which we remember and we thank the ancestors for their sacrifices and takes place during the month of the ghosts, the only period when the dead can return to Earth.
The Obon festival lasts three days, but it may vary in different regions of Japan.
August 13 — Mukaebi or welcoming fire/bonfire in front of houses lights the way for returning spirits.
August 14-15 — Hoyo/Kuyo when families invite a Buddhist priest to their homes or visit a temple or shrine to perform a memorial service.
August 16 — Okuribi another bonfire or paper lantern to send the soul of the ancestors back to their world and also are organized bonodori dances performed for the deceased.
If you have the chance to be in Kyoto on August 16, the Obon matsuri is marked by Gozan no Okuribi, the feast of fire. For the occasion big fires are lit at the top of the five mountains of the ancient imperial city.