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Tradition, culture highlight Obon Festival

 

The Palo Alto Buddhist Temple celebrated the Obon Festival for the 62nd time over the weekend.

"Obon is a Buddhist and Japanese tradition; a once-a-year festival to honor our ancestors in a very positive and festive manner," event co-chair Shiz Kobara said.

Events started Saturday (July 31) with a musical performance by members of the temple. A Buddhist service, conducted by resident minister Rev. William T. Masuda, followed. After more music and dancing, the evening concluded with a fencing demonstration.

On Sunday (Aug. 1), traditional Japanese fare, martial-arts demonstrations and an outdoor bonsai exhibit were featured, and the day culminated with the Bon Odori dance.

Kobara's favorite event in childhood was the Bon Odori dance "when everyone got together and participated."

The custom varies regionally, but typically performers dance around the "yagura," a high wooden scaffold built for the festival. Bon Odori is still popular. Even now, Kobara said, "You come, and it's packed."

The dances are homage to the ancestors. Taiko drums are played to "wake up the spirits. That's why they're so loud and thunderous."

The festival organizers try to honor all aspects of Japanese culture, Kobara said, noting the festival has "evolved and become more modern."

— Sophie Stid

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