Gardena Buddhist Church Boasts Largest Obon Festival In Southern California

June 24, 2009

Author: Takeshi Nakayama

Source: The Buddhist Channel/Nichi Bei Times,8316,0,0,1,0

Gardena Buddhist Church will observe Obon — the annual Japanese Buddhist festival which has evolved to a celebration where families honor their ancestors with and joyous dancing — on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1- 2, announced the Rev. Naomi Nakano.

Gardena’s Obon Festival — the largest of its kind in Southern California — will feature the popular Bon Odori dancing that will take place on the blocked-off street just east of the church grounds from 7 p.m. both nights. The event will also include a carnival (Saturday 3 to 10 p.m., Sunday 2 to 9 p.m.) with games, food booths, and Bingo, as well as produce, books, arts and crafts for sale.

Mitzi Shimizu, dance instructor for the Gardena Obon Festival, said, “Gardena attracts the most people for the Obon dance because we are the last Obon of the summer in the Los Angeles area, so people who enjoy the dancing come here to get the last dance in for the year. By last year’s count, we had at least 1,000 people dancing. The dancers were from the various Buddhist temples plus members of the public.”

Every year Gardena adds one new dance number “just to make it interesting,” Shimizu said. “This year’s new dance is “Kawachi Ondo,” and its origin is from the Osaka area of Japan. It’s a traditional Obon dance they do every year. We basically start with about eight dances and sometimes we add a few extra dances that we all enjoy doing.”

In the Southern California area, there are 18 temples of the Jodo Shinshu school and they all get together to learn the same dances, she explained. “That’s why we’re all able to join in and dance at each other’s Obon festivals.”