The following is a Facebook post by Missionary Linda Bengtson in Japan:
This week is Obon holiday in Japan. It’s a time when people visit their families and welcome back the spirits of their departed ancestors. 20-some years ago, when I first came to Japan, people lit fires outside on the road to help the spirits find their way. The white paper lantern outside the house means it is the first Obon after someone died (see 2nd photo below). Today in Ishinomaki, a public announcement was made asking everyone to observe a minute of silence at noon to pray for the souls of those who died in the tsunami last year.