It’s that time again for the annual Obon season. There have been several Obon planning meetings already completed. As you know, these festivals don’t just happen each year without a lot of preparation. There are about 6 months of planning to get everything just right. It takes leadership, cooperation and coordination from everyone. Please thank Dennis Akizuki, Jim McClure, Bob Terasaki, Norm Tanaka, Greg Aso, Alvin Hironaga. Many of the past chairs have already passed like Jimi Yamaichi, Mum Arii, Bob Yoshikawa. That is all I can remember. Forgive me if I left anyone off the list.
Let me tell you about my Obon experience. As many of you know, I am not from this area. In fact, I come from a small agricultural community north of Sacramento. The temple I attended through high school was Placer Buddhist Church located in Penryn. I remember growing up in 2 temples. The first temple was on Penryn Road. The building is now called Penryn Faith Center. If you look at the building, it is recessed back from Penryn Road and that’s where the Obon dancing took place. We were tough people who were able to dance Obon no Uta in kimono walking uphill. The minister’s cottage still stands to the right of the temple. Obon was very festive. Approximately 500 people attended. I remember 50-100 participated in dancing. The final highlight of the day was to get home in time to watch the 11:00 PM news showing clips of the festival.
As you know, our San Jose Obon occurs in July but because July is Northern California’s peak fruit season, Obon is delayed to the end of August when the harvest season is less frantic.
In the 1960’s, the Placer Buddhist Church Community purchased land near Interstate 80 across the street where the Ground Cow used to stand. Some of the nights were cold and there was nothing better than a hot bowl of udon. Obon festival participants dwindled due to kids going off to college or finding jobs. I remember taking my daughter to Obon and she was 1 of 50 dancers. To make money, the church began food bazaar and game booths on a separate day at the end of September. I was in charge of a game booth that was held in a Dharma classroom. I don’t remember more than a handful of children coming to play games.
For many temples, Obon Festival is the largest fundraiser of the year and they rely heavily on the event and San Jose is no exception. The money the festival provides pays many of the bills the temple acquires. I came from a small Obon community to one of the largest. I feel we should take advantage of our drawing power. Please come and support your temple’s annual Obon Festival. I know there have been years when the weather doesn’t cooperate by being hot but please do your best to attend and support our Obon Festival and temple. Most likely your friends are volunteering by working in the booths. Come and be entertained by the Chidori Band and the many Taiko groups. Play the many games for adults as well as children. Come eat the many wonderful foods of chicken and beef teriyaki, sushi, tempura, imagawa-yaki, yaki manju, ramen, corn on the cob, tempura and strawberry shortcake. Also, try the Gordon Biersch beer, wines sake and pearl tea/smoothies.
Above all, come see your friends that you may not have seen since the last Obon.