2018’s O-Bon Festival begins on August 13th and goes on until Shoro Nagashi on the last night, August 15th. During this time, the spirits of the dead come back to see their living friends and family; Shoro Nagashi wishes them well and sends them back to heaven. This religious festival is loud with firecrackers and gongs, a solemn and joyous seeing-off.
Families and friends who have lost loved ones since the last O-Bon build shorobune boats, while neighborhood associations and groups build moyaibune boats, of bamboo, grass and wood. Each boat is decked with flowers and lanterns, sometimes with a picture of the deceased and often with a small memorial object. Some boats are designed in the shape of something the deceased particularly loved. These boats are paraded through the Nagasaki streets, past Nagasaki Station, Nagasaki Prefectural Office, and down Kenchozakadori, before being destroyed at the end of the parade in Nagashiba.
Festivities begin at dusk and carry on late into the night. Many streets are closed for the procession, so it is best to take the train or tram to Ohato, Gotomachi or Nishihamanomachi Stations, and walk to the prime viewing spot at Kenchozakadori outside the Nagasaki Prefectural Office. The Shoro Nagashi attracts up to 190,000 visitors a year, so get there early—and, as this is a religious festival, be respectful!