I’m not going to list out the dates as I did in previous years, in part because I’m so lazy, but mostly because Japanese City does such a better job. They even have a map and list of the most popular festivals. Seriously: check out the map!
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
In a little bit, I’m going to get some vegan ramen and head off to the Obon festival at Gardena Buddhist Church. No doubt, I will (be trying to) dance.
This video is from last year’s Higashi Honganji Obon. Check out all those young Buddhists! I’m somewhere in there. If you’re in Northern California, check out the Buddhist Church of Oakland, which is holding its Obon Baazar this weekend.
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.
Covering Obon in Hawai‘i is the Let’s Bon Dance! website. You can look up the 2010 bon dance schedule for the whole state. If you’re in the islands, this weekend is a great opportunity to attend dances at…
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.