It is one of the largest and longest-running festivals of its kind in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Conejo, and Antelope valleys. It was started by the Nisei, is being carried on by the Sansei, and enjoyed by the Yonsei and Gosei.
Every year it draws thousands of visitors from all across Southern California to its booths to enjoy savory and ethnic delights such as chicken teriyaki, Chinese chicken salad, chirashi, sushi, Spam musubi, cha shu bao, shu mai, beef teriyaki, udon, and somen.
It features games such as Bingo, Fishing Derby, Dough Ball, and Gold Fish Toss. There are displays of bonsai, Japanese dolls, and calligraphy as well as a flea market, bookstore, and a raffle.
It begins with taiko drummers drawing people to the festivities with their loud, enthusiastic, and boisterous performance. This is followed by hundreds of dancers clad in kimono, yukata, and happi coats moving to the rhythms and melodies of both traditional and modern Japanese music, all to celebrate the Buddhist “Festival of Joy,” which started centuries ago as a religious custom to remember and express gratitude to deceased loved ones.
For many people of Japanese ancestry who can trace their roots back to the San Fernando Valley and its Japanese American Community Center, the summer would not be the summer without the San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival, or simply The Obon. It is tradition. It is friends and families gathering to enjoy each other’s company. It is neighbors getting to know each other. It is strangers getting acquainted and becoming friends. It is numerous community organizations and their leaders coming together and working cooperatively to insure a meaningful experience for all. It is community.
This year’s Obon will take place at the SFVJACC, located at 12953 Branford St. (at the 5 Freeway) in Pacoima, on Saturday, June 25, from 4:30 to 10 p.m. (dancing at 7 p.m.) and Sunday, June 26, from 4:30 to 9 p.m. (dancing at 6:30 p.m.). So mark your calendars, dust off your kachi-kachi and your uchiwa; rustle up your yukata and get ready to eat, dance, and play the night away — and while you’re at it, invite your friends, neighbors, and co-workers too.
Everyone will appreciate the opportunity to share in the cultural experience and perpetuate the long-standing tradition that is Obon. We look forward to seeing everyone there. Come one, come all!
Dance practice will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the temple parking lot on Tuesday, June 21, and Thursday, June 23.
For more information, call (818) 899-4030 or visit www.sfvhbt.org.