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Through the Lens: Festival of the Dead across Japan

​Andrew Faulk, a photographer partnering with ​Rosetta Stone​, shares his images and thoughts from ​a journey to the ​Obon ​​​festival, where citizens of Japan honor their loved ones who’ve passed away.

​Incen​se on the grave.

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During Obon, the smell of senko incense fills Japanese houses and cemeteries. Throughout Obon holidays, relatives gather in homes and in cemeteries, praying for their ancestors’ spirits to return. Here, recently lit incense fills a cemetery in Mitaka, one of Tokyo’s wards.

Shimokitazawa Awa-Odori Festival ​lanterns.

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Shimokitazawa’s Ichibancho shopping district comes to life in mid-August with its Awa Odori festival. This image is a multiple-exposure of the festival’s chochin lanterns (the lantern itself is an important part of Obon, calling ancestors back into our realm and then used again to lead the ancestors back to the grave).

Female Awa Odori dancer smiling.

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Awa Odori is a traditional dance festival made up of many groups of choreographed dancers. Here, a jovial young dancer claps to the beat of the taiko drums.

​Yukata being tied.

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A girl helps her friend tie the bow of her yukata, the cotton dress worn throughout Japan in the summertime. With high temperatures and humidity, the traditional garb is one way to beat Japan’s summertime heat.

Male Awa Odori dancer in street.

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Troupes of choreographed dancers and musicians dance through the streets, typically accompanied by taiko drums, shinobue flute, and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional obon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the streets. While the Awa Odori dance originated in the southern Tokushima Prefecture, many cities and neighborhoods throughout Japan have adopted the dancing tradition as part of the Obon celebrations. Here, a male dancer flows through Shimokitazawa’s streets.

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