Jane Michiko Imamura, 1920-2011

The Rafu Shimpo today remembers the contributions of the late Jane Imamura to American Buddhism.

Jane Michiko Imamura is remembered for her warm and compassionate spirit as well as for her numerous contributions to the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, the Buddhist Churches of America, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Kyodan.

In addition, she was recognized for her active role in advancing and promoting the study of Shin Buddhism to Westerners.


“Jane Imamura made everyone, regardless of background or age, feel welcome and wanted,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, who along with other Beat Generation iconic figures such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, studied Buddhism at the temple during the 1950s. “She was also a wonderful, personal friend and advisor, with a deep knowledge of Buddhist thought and values, and a great spirit of compassion and service…. Jane Imamura was kind of a beacon in my mind, a light to steer by all those years, and I know this was true for many others — not just me. My great thanks to her big spirit and extraordinary life.”

Jane Imamura was also the mother of Rev. Ryo Imamura, a founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. A year ago, I reprinted his response to Tricyclefounder Helen Tworkov’s assertion that “Asian-American Buddhists … have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.” I hope you will recognize that Jane Imamura’s life was one immersed in the creation and development of the very institutions of American Buddhism that we take for granted today.

You can read more at the Rafu Shimpo online. Also check out Jon Kawamoto’s tribute to Jane Imamura, who passed away on December 26, 2011.

Obon Festivals 2011!

Sadly, I’m travelling all weekend and so won’t have the opportunity to attend the festivals down here in Orange County and Venice. There are still plenty of Obon festivals left to attend this summer. It’s never to late to break out your kachi kachi!

Southern California and Nevada

Northern California (Bay, Northern and Coast Districts)

Northwest (Washington and Oregon)

Eastern and Mountain States


More details about Obon dates and locations can be found at the Japanese City Obon Festival and Bon Odori Schedule! (I wish I’d known about this before I typed up this list.) If you have photos, I’d be most delighted to link to them! Corrections are much welcome too. Many thanks to Rev. Bridgeand Rev. Usuki for their help in putting this list together.

Bon Odori this Weekend!

Bon odori is a dance linked with Obon. Entire festivals and bazaars have developed around bon odori, and these Obon festivals are good opportunities for interaction between temples and local communities. A number of Obon festivals are happening this weekend, from New York to Virginia to Chicago to Berkeley to Vancouver! If you happen to live near one of these temples, I encourage you to stop by and join in the dance and festivities. I’ve provided a list of some of this weekend’s festivals below.

Western Temples

Eastern Temples

Canadian Temples

If you want to attend a bon odori in Hawai‘i, you are fortunate that there’s a website for this: Let’s Bon Dance!

Let me know in the comments of any corrections needed with the lists above.

Photo credit to the Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. Thanks also to @Kyoshin, @djbuddha and Rev. Usuki for helping me find the lists of temples above.

It’s Obon Season!

We are already well into Obon season, and I haven’t even started to practice my moves yet!

I’ve posted about this holiday and festival before, and you can probably expect a few more posts this summer. My favorite explanation is still this article by Rev. Patti Usuki.

In Japan, Obon has been held since 657 CE. It is observed in July or August. A commonly held belief among people in Japan is that the disembodied spirits of the dead return to visit at this time of year. This belief is not supported by Jodo Shin Buddhists, who consider such a belief to be an unfounded superstition

Most Japanese-American Buddhists belong to the Jodo Shinshu school (including the sangha of West LA Buddhist Temple), so it is important to understand the history and significance of our Obon Festival. It is not, as some mistakenly believe, to welcome back the spirits of the dead. Instead, it is a time of gratitude, giving, and joy in the Truth of Life. Hence, it is also known as Kangi-e, or the Gathering of Joy.

There are already videos up of this year’s bon odori at the Arizona Buddhist Temple and the San Fernando Valley Buddhist Temple. If anyone has any other photos or video—especially from the recent Senshin or West CovinaObon festivities, I’ll most happily post those here too!

Gardena Obon 2010

The last Obon celebration in Southern California took place at the Gardena Buddhist Church. This year felt more crowded than last year. Below is a joint taiko performance with the UC Irvine Jodaiko (in white and blue) and the Gardena Buddhist Church Junior YBA (in black) playing together.

We could barely squeeze into the dance circle. As usual, I forgot all my moves, but I was far from alone—no matter, the other dancers were more than happy to help us out. The best way to practice is to go Obon hopping as much as you can during the summer!

The next Obon festival is at the San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple next weekend. Not quite Southern California, but it’s a matter of perspective. The last one in the Southwest is in Las Vegas on August 14.

That’s enough posting about Obon for this year!

Obon in the East

I started posting too late on Obon to mention the festivals out in the Eastern United States. And by “Eastern,” I’m talking about anything East of the Mississippi. Below are the dates of Obon festivals that have passed. I believe there was also an Obon festival at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, but I couldn’t find the past date online.

The past few posts on Obon have been a bit carried away over the dance and festivities. The other (and for many, the primary) side of Obon is that it’s a memorial occasion. If you happen to look up “Obon” on a local temple calendar, it’s probably a good idea to find out first whether you’ll be attending a party-like festival or a more somber memorial occasion.

Obon Norcal

In a few hours I’m heading up to Northern California, which reminded me that my last post was exclusive to Obon festivities in the Southern California Shin network. Unlike most of Southern California, temples Northern California seem to schedule their events separately.

This weekend, you can catch Bon Odori at the Buddhist Temple of Alameda and the Buddhist Church of San Francisco. (If you’re in Southern California, you should check out the party at Higashi Honganji this weekend!) I’ll post more about Obon happenings elsewhere in North America after I get back.

Obon Season 2010!

The Tricycle editors beat me to it. It’s Obon season! Last year I posted a quote and link to Rev. Patti Usuki’s explanation of the Obon holiday. Below is a list of the remaining Obon festivals in Southern California.

If you’re in Southern California, you should check out festival celebrations in Orange County and Guadalupe today. Remember that you can always buy your kachi kachi at Marukai!