A Cast of 1,000-plus

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San Jose Betsuin held its 2013 Obon Festival on July 13 and 14, with the Bon Odori attracting hundreds of dancers to 5th Street in Japantown. The official count was 1,173 for Saturday and 745 for Sunday; it’s believed to be the largest Bon Odori in the Bay Area. The weekend also included food, games, entertainment, a raffle and an introduction to Buddhism.

The Bon Odori began with Rinban Kenshin Fujimoto (above) and Rev. Gerald Sakamoto (below) leading a procession of dancers performing “Shinshu Ondo.”

Live music was provided by San Jose’s Chidori Band, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. They were joined by master koto player Shirley Muramoto. Songs included “Obon no Uta,” “Pokemon Ondo,” “Hanabi Ondo” and “Tanko Bushi.”

Dance instructors on the main yagura. Due to the size of the circle — about a block long — there were two additional yagura (one of which is pictured below) so that all dancers could copy the instructors’ moves. The head dance instructor was Hanayagi Reimichi (Reiko Iwanaga).

Members of San Jose Taiko, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, performed “Shiawase Ondo” (with the Chidori Band), “San Jose Bayashi,” “Ei Ja Nai Ka” and “Obon, Obon, It’s Festival Day.” Over the weekend, festival-goers were also treated to performances by UC Riverside’s Senryu Taiko, UC Irvine’s Jodaiko, UC Davis’ Bakuhatsu Taiko, and Stanford Taiko.

Special guests included Rep. Mike Honda, who represents the San Jose area.

Above and below: Many kids took part in the odori, some not yet old enough to dance.

Obon festivals typically include dancers from other temples and community organizations. This year, Southern California was represented by the Meiji Ondo Dancers from San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center (above) and members of Centenary United Methodist Church in Little Tokyo (below).

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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