Sunday, August 7, 2011

お供え Osonae Butsudan Sugar Flower Offerings

These are a pretty confection like decoration. They don't have a specific name but they might be called "obutsuzen" or お供え "osonae" which means offering. They are made of mostly sugar and come in many shapes and bright colors, usually flowers. They aren't just candy for kids, though. They are a common sight this time of year in August around Obon. They are an offering to be put on the butsudan or family buddhist alter in the home. They make me think of how in other Asian countries real flowers are placed on alters. For Obon, the departed spirits of the family come back to visit and people will put food, particularly sweets,  cigarettes or alcohol on the busudan as an offering. After a certain period of time, they are taken down for the family to eat. It's said that food eaten from the butsudan has lost it's taste because the ancestors had their share. However, these sugar flower offerings are not eaten. I know this because after I bought these to take a picture, I took a bite. It wasn't very sweet and had a chalky taste. My saw it and couldn't believe it. She said she's never heard of anyone eating them. They are ceremonially burned with other religious paraphernalia after Obon. Oh well, you never know until you try.

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