Obon in the
Readers who have visited Japan during July
or August may have noticed that many Japanese seem to travel at this
time. Many will know that this may be part of the Obon festival. In modern Japan this is a time for families to gather together
at their traditional home where the graves of their ancestors are and show
their respect by cleaning them and placing offerings. Also connected are
the great summer festivals that include dancing Bon Odori or Bon Dancing
such as the famous Awa Odori of Tokushima Prefecture. These traditions
are said to go back at least 500 years in some parts.
This tradition is said to be based on the story of a disciple of
Buddha, one Maha Maudagalyayana known as Mokuren in Japan. In his story
Mokuren made offerings to save his late mother from wandering as a hungry
spirit. These offerings were to the Buddhist monks who had finished their
summer retreat on the 15th of the seventh month.
This date is still used as the start of the three days of the
festival in some areas of Japan. Other areas celebrate this festival from
the 15th of August while other areas calculate the 15th
day of the seventh lunar month. But in each case it is thought that the
spirits of one’s ancestors return to their graves.
Left: The Broome Japanese Cemetery
at night with candles on each grave. Right: The large 1908 memorial stone
commemorating 170 divers and crew who lost their lives in three separate
This culture of respect for the departed and making offerings to
ease their existence in the afterlife was the inspiration for this year’s
Obon festival held in Broome. The organizers felt that the spirits of the
many pearl divers from Japan who died in Broome, as well as their
families would appreciate a proper Obon ceremony. Obon has not been observed
in Broome since 1968 so this year’s ceremony on the 2nd of
August was the first in over 40 years. This year, Reverend Shigenobu
Watanabe from the Hongwanji Buddhist Mission in Sydney performed the
service. It is nice to think
that the memory of those who died far from home while helping build the
Town of Broome is still respected and cared for.
TOHOKU - Through the eyes of Japanese Photographers
Last month the Japan
Foundation in cooperation with the City of Perth and the Consulate-General
of Japan in Perth presented an exhibition of photography from the Tohoku
region of northern Japan. The photographs showed the past culture,
scenery, lifestyles and people of the region whose modern face is mostly
known through the reporting of last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake.
The exhibition also
provided an opportunity to introduce some famous Tohoku dishes and sake
attended by the Right Honorable the Lord Mayor Ms. Lisa Scaffidi and the
Attorney General, the Honorable Michael Mischin MLA who represented the
Premier. Thank you to all those who came to see the photos at Council
House and especially to those who left thoughtful comments for our
“Tohoku – Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers” exhibition at
JET Programme Pre-Departure Reception
On Tuesday July 17, participants in the 2012 Japanese
Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme intake from Western Australia were
guests of honor at a reception held at the Consul-General’s residence. Speeches were made by
Consul-General Tatsuo Ishikawa, Ms Andrea Mitchell MLA, Member for Kingsley, representing the Premier, Mr Nick John, President of JETAA
WA; and Ms Natasha Sjahrir, 2102 JET
participant, who responded on behalf of the other participants.
This year’s JET participants with Consul-General
They are, left to right, Brett Lynch, Alicia Sparnon, Zoe Womack, Katie
Dearle and Natasha Sjahrir.
JLTAWA Social Dinner
hosted a function on the 5th of July for the Japanese Language
Teachers Association of Western Australia attended by many of the
Association’s members and others who have a close connection with
Japanese Language Education. In a relaxed informal atmosphere, well
received speeches by the Consul-General Ishikawa, Ms. Clare Buising from
the Department of Education and Mr. Chris Graham on behalf of JLTAWA were
followed by guests taking the opportunity to mingle with likeminded professionals
from all over Western Australia.