What Obon Season Means to Me

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By BEVERLY TOYAMA

I am a Japanese American Sansei who grew up in Seattle, Washington. My family was active in the Seattle Buddhist Church, and the one event that is seared in my memory is its annual Obon. My parents were busy operating a hotel business and, although they could afford to pay for accordion lessons, I really wanted to learn more about Japanese folk dancing.

The Obon provided me with a two-day opportunity to dance with my friends and to appreciate the meaning of “Obon.” That’s me in the center, wearing eyeglasses, around 1953.

When I retired in 2008, almost immediately I joined Genchi Minyo Kikuta Kai. My friend and I were at the Nisei Week public ondo event and we did not know all of the dances. One of members kindly showed us the dance steps and we happily joined the crowd.

I am still actively engaged with the minyo community in the Los Angeles area, and, when possible, my husband and I fly up to Seattle and participate in my old temple’s Obon. It is so nice to see that this Buddhist tradition remains strong and still attracts people of all backgrounds.

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