Obon Holidays in Japan 2019 and What to Expect

The Obon festival will not significantly affect businesses in many industries, but some real estate agents will be off for all or part of August 10th to 18th. Below is a brief overview of what to expect next week.

We’re posting this article to give our users a heads up that if you inquire on a property during this period, the agent may not be able to get back to you right away.

What is Obon?

The Obon (お盆) or Bon festival, which usually takes place between August 13th and 16th, is an annual Japanese holiday commemorating deceased ancestors.

On the first day of Obon, people take paper lanterns to the graves of their ancestors to call their spirits back home to visit. On the last day, they guide them back to their graves, again with chochin.

The Daimonji Festival in Kyoto is Japan’s most famous bon-okuri festival, when ancestors are guided back to their graves. Two hundred meter-long character-shaped bonfires are built on five mountainsides around Kyoto. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Obon estival is also celebrated with Bon Odori (Dances), which take place in temples and parks throughout the country. Though Obon is a holiday commemorating the dead, Obon festivals are quite loud and lively and are a highlight of the summer season. People sport light cotton kimono and gather for food, beer, and much public merriment at their local park or temple, all to the sounds of thundering taiko drums and festive dancing. Everyone is welcome to join!

Obon is traditionally observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the “seventh month” of the year, which is July in the solar calendar but August in the lunar calendar. That’s why Obon is celebrated at different times, depending on which calendar is used to mark the festival locally.

When is Obon this year?

This year, Obon is being celebrated from Tuesday, August 13th to Friday, August 16th. However, because Mountain Day, a national holiday unrelated to Obon, falls on a Sunday this year, the following Monday (August 12) will be the actual day of observance.

This means that many people in Tokyo and around Japan will get a nine-day holiday, starting from Saturday, August 10th to Sunday, August 18th.

Busy Travel Season

Obon is one of the busiest travel times of the year. Some people will leave the big cities to go back to their home town and others will take the opportunity to travel domestically or internationally. As with the end-of-the-year holidays, airports and roads will see peak travel crowds on the first day and last two days of the holiday period.

What will be open

Some companies are giving their employees the entire week off, which means, of course, that they will not be open for business.

Real Estate Japan Inc., for example, will be closed from August 10th to the 18th. If you are an agent or property owner interested in listing a property on our site, please contact us any time using the Contact form. We will reply to you as soon as we are back in the office following the Obon holiday.

The GaijinPot Housing Service will be open for usual business hours next week. If you contact the Housing Service, they’ll be able to help you with your inquiry throughout the week. However, because some property managers (PMs) will be off next week, they may not be able to schedule a room view unless the PM company is open.

Real Estate Agents

Some real estate agents will be off from August 10th to August 18th. Other agents will only be off for part of next week. If you inquire on a property on Real Estate Japan, you may not hear back until they return from holidays. We appreciate your understanding on this.


The  major national banks (such as Mitsui Sumitomo, Mizuho, Risona, and Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ) and JapanPost Bank will only close branch offices (teller windows) on Monday, August 12th, for Mountain Day. You’ll still be able to use ATMs to make withdrawals and wire transfers as usual throughout the week.


Major department stores, supermarkets and conbini (convenience stores) will be open all next week, including the national holiday on Monday.

Your neighborhood mom-and-pop shops, however, may be closed for all or part of next week.

Government Offices

Government offices, including city and ward offices, will be closed on Monday, August 12th. They will open from Tuesday to Friday as usual.

Garbage Collection

Each city or ward decides its own garbage collection schedule, but as a rule, garbage pick-up will take place on the usual schedule next week (including which days burnable, non-burnable, and recyclables are picked up).

You may also be interested in: Is summer the best time to move in Japan?

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Lead photo: Obon chochin paper lanterns (stock photo)

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