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Obon Festival pays tribute to spirits
Keisuke Nagao Obon Festival pays tribute to spirits

A Buddhist priest and a group of Taiji exchange students arrived in Broome last week to mark a significant Japanese Buddhist custom with the local community.

Sydney-based Buddhist priest Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe travelled to Broome to conduct the blessings for the Obon Festival.

The Obon or Bon Festival is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of relatives and friends.

It is believed the spirits return to the world to visit their relatives each year during the festival.

Families come together and prepare for Obon by cleaning the family grave sites and hanging lanterns in front of houses to guide the spirits to their homes.

Prayers and food offerings are made at house altars and temples.

Last week, Reverend Watanabe conducted the ceremony at Broome’s Japanese cemetery, surrounded by Broome locals, including members of the Japanese community, Pearl Hamaguchi and Akira Masuda.

They were joined by a group of exchange students from Taiji, Japan, who spent a week in Broome as part of the St Mary’s cultural exchange program.

This year, the cultural exchange was organised to coincide with the Obon Festival. A civic reception was held at Broome Shire offices last week to welcome students and delegates.

During the week, the students stayed with their host brothers and sisters and attended St Mary’s College.

They also went on excursions including a sunset camel ride, a trip to the Sisters of St John of God Heritage Centre and the Malcolm Douglas Wildlife Park.

A civic ceremony was held at the Broome Shire offices to officially welcome the students and Taiji delegates.

The cultural exchange program started in 2008 with a group of Taiji students visiting St Mary’s College. In 2010, the first exchange group from St Mary’s visited Taiji.