Fools’ Dance: OBON in America 2009

June 17, 2009

Obon In America Animation

Japanese Americans all across the land from Vermont to Hawaii will celebrate the ancient Buddhist Obon festival in the coming weeks with joyous folk dancing, religious observances and traditional Japanese foods in what is the most authentic cultural event remaining in Japanese America.

Obon Festival season continues through August and marks the zenith of the Buddhist year. But more than just a chance to take colorful photos and eat Japanese comfort foods, Obon is a Buddhist teaching come alive.

Obon [ お盆 ] originates from the story of Mokuren, a disciple of the Buddha, who during a meditative trance saw his deceased mother suffering in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (the Buddhist equivalent of purgatory). Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this suffering. Buddha instructed him to make offerings and to meditate on the life of his mother. Mokuren followed the Buddha’s instructions and he began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple, happy because of his mother’s release and grateful for his mother’s kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy came Obon, which has been celebrated for thousands of years as a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.

Hundreds of yukata-clad dancers jam Halldale Ave. in Gardena, Calif. to dance the Bon Odori in memory of departed loved ones. The Gardena Buddhist temple will host its annual Obon on Aug. 1 & 2


Aug. 1-2—Gardena Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 1517 W. 166th St., Gardena, CA 90247; (310) 327-9400; 3-10 p.m. Sat./2-9 p.m. Sun.

Aug. 1—Buddhist Temple of San Diego Obon Odori, 2929 Market St., San Diego, CA 92102; (619) 239-0896: 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 1—Oregon Buddhist Temple “Obonfest 2009,” 3720 SE 34th Ave., Portland, OR 97202; (503) 234-9456: 4-9 p.m.

Aug. 1—San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405; (805)-595-2625: 1-9 p.m.

(408) 424-4105

Aug. 1—Waialua Hongwanji Temple Obon, 67-313 Kealohanui St., Waialua, HI 96791; (808) 637-4395: from 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 1-2—Palo Alto Buddhist Temple Obon Odori, 2751 Louis Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303; (650)856-0123: 5-11 p.m. Sat./noon-10 p.m. Sun.

Watsonville Obon

Aug. 7-8—Pearl City Hongwanji Mission Obon, 858 Second St., Pearl City, HI 96782;(808) 455-1680: from 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 8—Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha Obon Odori, Cimarron Memorial High School, 2301 N. Tenaya Way, Las Vegas, NV 89128; (702) 869-0557: from 7 p.m.

Aug. 8—Olympia JACL Bon Odori, Water St. SW & Legion Way SW Olympia, WA 98501; (360) 556-7562: from 1 p.m.

(360) 556-7562

Aug. 8—Southern Alameda County Buddhist Temple Bon Odori, 32975 Alvarado Niles Rd., Union City, CA 94587; (510) 471-2581: 5:30-9 p.m.

(510) 471-2581

Aug. 8-9—Diablo Japanese American Obon Odori, 3165 Treat Blvd., Concord, CA 94518; (925) 682-5299: 1-9 p.m.



Aug. 15 —Asian American Cultural Center of Vermont Obon Festival, 814 Western Ave., Brattleboro, VT 05301; for details, call (802) 257-7898.

Aug 15—Kamuela Hongwanji Buddhist Temple Obon, call for details (808) 885-4481

Aug. 21-22—Mililani Hongwanji Temple Obon, 95-257 Kaloapau St., Mililani, HI 96789; (808) 625-0925: from 7:30 p.m.

Aug 22—Puna Hongwanji Pahoa Shibu Obon, details (808) 996-9981

Aug. 23—Nisei Week Street Ondo, E. 1st St. bet. San Pedro St. and Central Ave., 4 p.m.; Open to public;

Aug. 29—Aiea Hongwanji Mission Obon, 99-186 Puakala St, Aiea, HI‎; (808) 487-2626: from 7 p.m.

Aug 29—Honohina Hongwanji Buddhist Temple Obon, details (808) 963-6032




(808) 877-7998
(310) 391-4351
(626) 798-4781
(650) 964-9426


(209) 368-5589
(310) 822-8885

One Response to “Fools’ Dance: OBON in America 2009”

  1. Mike Murase Says:

    I was randomly looking for articles on Obon and I came across this excellent posting . . . but it was from 3 years ago.

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