Along with Bon-iri, various preparations begin to provide for “Mukae-bon”. These are called “Bon-Jitaku” (or “Bon-Youi”).
In the time when the summer reaches its highlight, families make these preparations and wait silently the coming of Mukae-bon.
It is widely believed that the spirits which return in Obon come back to each houses from mountains and graves near the villages. (Don’t think too much about how the hell’s pot is connected with mountains and graves.)
Bon-michi-tsukuri is the work to arrange the return path for these spirits. It is also called “Shouryou-michi”, and “Tsuitachi-michi”.
The work is called “Michi-nagi”, “Michi-gari”, “Kari-michi-tsukuri”, and they mow the grass in both sides of the roads (the roads from the grave to the houses, the border of the villages, and the heads of the mountains) in teamwork. It could be a tough work for a hot season.
The spirits that come back to this world head for each “houses”. To be as a sign for this, people set up hanging lanterns and paper lanterns in the high places of the gardens and around the main houses after Bon-iri. This is “Bon-Dourou”. In some regions, they call “Taka-Dourou”.
Bon-Dourou is a very old folk event, and it is mentioned even in the famous “Meigetsu-ki” written by Teika Fujiwara that something like Bon-Dourou was performed by the citizens already in the Kamakura Era.
Especially in the families which a person died within a year from the previous Obon, or in another words, in the families that there is a “New Spirit” which have the first Obon, make a strong effort in Bon-Dourou. The period in which the hanging lanterns are set up will be longer than the others. There are regions where they keep setting up the lanterns even after Okuri-Bon and until July 31, and in other regions they keep setting up the lantern for 3 years after the New Spirit come about, and throw the lantern into the river in the third year.
Bon-bana-tori is an event that people gather flowers from the mountains before the Mukae-bon of the 13th and offer them to the Bon shelves and graves. In some regions, they call it “Bon-bana-‚ukae”. In many regions they perform it from 11th to 12th, but in some regions they gather the flowers on 7th and offer them on 13th.
As they gather the flowers from the mountains where it is believed that the spirits live, it is thought that it is an event that corresponds to the New Year event “Wakagi-tori”. The flowers are considered to be the “anchorage of the spirits” of the ancestors just like the wakagi (young tree).
The category of Bon-bana varies depending on the region and it is colorful. Bon-bana can be a few varieties of flowering grasses of autumn, or in some regions, it can be any flower if it is a flower of the season.
Balloon flower Iwate County, Iwate Prefecture
Mountain pink Tsukui County, Kanagawa Prefecture
Golden-rayed lily Kamo County, Gifu Prefecture
Lythrum and ground cherry Niwa County, Aichi Prefecture
Patorinia Yoshino County, Nara Prefecture
Kusa-ichi (Plant market)
“Kusa-ichi” which deals with goods necessary for the Bon-Jitaku is also a seasonal tradition of Obon.
It corresponds to “Toshi-no-ichi” of the year-end. The name varies depending on the region, such as; “Bon-ichi”, “Bon-kusa-ichi”, “Kusa-no-ichi”, “Bon-no-ichi”, “Tamuke-no-ichi”, “Hana-ichi”.
The goods that are dealt with in Kusa-ichi are; “Autumn grass”, “Lotus leaves”, “Chinese black pine”, “Horses and cows made of eggplant”, “Wile rice”, “Hanging lantern”, “Drums (for Bon Dancing)”, “Round fan”, “Paper lantern”, “Ogara (The pedicle of a hemp after ripping its bark)”.
You can also enjoy a little bit of the mood of the “Kusa-ichi” in the shopping street of the urban region if you go to the shop-front of the general stores and vegetable shops.
They prepare special shelf in the houses to salute the spirits that come back in Obon. This is called the “Bon-dana”. In some regions they call it; “Shouryou-dana”, or “Senzo-dana”. This is a very important study in the research of Obon, and even today, it is the subject of a fierce argument (confer the study edition for details).
The material and how to make Bon-dana differs depending on the region, but generally they make the shelf by using bamboo as the frame, and move the ancestral tablet from the Buddhist altar and offer Bon-bana, water, and funeral offerings.
In many cases, the big characteristic is that plural types of “Shelf” are made according to the types of spirits they salute.
They make the shelf for the new spirits (the spirits of the people who died within a year) with great politeness. They make a highly wrought shelf with fresh bamboo and cedar leaf. In many cases they set it in front yard and edge of the eaves, and it is built facing the direction of outdoors.
In the other hand, “Muen-dana” is made for muen-botoke who died leaving no one to attend to his grave. It is also called “Gaki-dana”, and “Hoka-dana”. The funeral offering is called gaki-no-meshi and they place field products on the leaves of lotus and aroids. It is usually made in outdoors, but there are regions that don’t make shelves and offer funeral offerings placed on leaves under the Bon-dana.