Dance, Dance and Dance!

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Hundreds gathered for West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple’s 65th annual Obon Festival. (RYOKO OHNISHI, Rafu Shimpo)

By RYOKO OHNISHI, Rafu Staff Writer

West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple hosted its 65th annual Obon Festival over the weekend of July 13 and 14 in the Sawtelle neighborhood.

The temple has a little over 200 family members, and many local community members also participated in the event. The Rev. Fumiaki Usuki estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people visited and enjoyed Obon dancing, games, bingo, cultural exhibitions such as bonsai and origami, and a taiko performance. 

“We have been doing this so long but we try to bring new communities. For example, this year, YMCA, Youth Basketball Club, 100th/442nd, bone marrow groups joined, and we had about 16 to 18 booths,” Rev. Usuki said.

Nearly 500 dancers gathered each day and danced for two hours, attracting visitors not affiliated with the temple.

The dance practices began on the second week of June, and 100 to 200 people attended twice a week. According to Grace Mizushima, the instructor, the popular songs among the participants were “One Plus One Ondo” and “Shiawase Samba.”

The songs are changed each year; half of the songs are new and half are from the old days. This year, “Tohoku Ondo” was introduced. It has been used for the Bon odori in the northeastern (tohoku) part of Japan, and the song was rerecorded by Yukio Hashi to encourage the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.

At left, Jack Fujimoto serves the udon, which was made from scratch with 100 gallons of dashi, konbu, fresh chashu, kamaboko and green onions. At right, the Bay Cities Gardeners Association displayed their 22 bonsai, sharing a room with the origami exhibit. (RYOKO OHNISHI/Rafu Shimpo)

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