Gardena Obon Festival

Gardena Buddhist Temple in California held their Obon Festival and Bon Odori this weekend, and I stopped by today.  More pics and video below the fold.

This first video is Jodaiko, the UC Irvine taiko group celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.

If you’ve never been to an Obon festival, I highly recommend you try and attend one.  This is one of the most important festivals on the Buddhist calendar, and temples all over the US hold festivals every summer.  In Japan, it’s traditionally a time when extended families return to their hometowns, which makes sense given that the basic idea of the holiday is to celebrate the gift of life and the lives of your ancestors, and express your gratitude to them for making your life possible.  Lanterns are lit to guide the spirits home, and the climax of the event is a Bon Odori – the communal dance.

Next up is the Bon Odori. I was a spectator, not a participant. Maybe someday…

In the US, Gardena Buddhist Temple holds the largest Obon event in California – the Bon Odori was especially impressive.  I was also amazed to find out that SoCal has branches of Book Off, a chain I grew to know in Japan and had no idea was in the US at all.  They have a humungous selection of used manga from $1-3 and one of the best collections of anime art books I’ve seen.  Alas, the Gardena branch didn’t have a doujin section, my favorite part of the Japanese version – but it was still a nearly orgiastic place to visit for an American anime/manga fanatic.



  1. e

    Drummers pic! 8D Still no drummer!Enzo but a good pic all the same. Especially as my country is quite lacking in the obon festivity department…

    For some reason all I see instead of the video embeds are blank spaces, alas. I'll try again later. Or maybe did you uploaded it with the rest of your travel albums as well? Hopefully I can watch them from there.

    Orgiastic, uh? I was using the same word in a conversation with my friends just a little ago (about organs. Yes, that other kind of organs —> classic music festival. The sad thing is my friends couldn't really tell the difference at first. Woe is me waxing poetic on the 'wrong' organ while licking oh-so-phallic ice cream cones).
    On the other hand… synchronicity?

  2. E

    I switched browsers and surprise surprise, the video embeds work.
    1) more drumming!
    2) I got the impressions there are some codified dance steps but they can be 'customized' so to speak. When your camera panned to the right in the 2nd video there was a lady in black dancing in a very lively way.
    The kids dancing are the cutest.
    Do you need to be a relative to participate in the dance (that's the inkling I have given the context) or even *polite* visitors would be allowed?

  3. Everyone is encouraged to dance, whether they're Japanese, Buddhist, know the steps or none of the above. They are indeed quite intricate if you want to actually do them properly – they start practicing in June! But I think the point is just to get up, jump around and express joy at being alive, and how you do it is less important.

  4. e

    *sighs* I'd really need that right now.
    My wishlist of things to do in life is getting longer. So many things to do, so little time – amd sometimes little chances – to do them.
    Thanks for sharing a little piece of culture and of your day.

  5. e

    *yikes! that's my name up there. I feel so exposed >.<*

    Unrelatedly: I had to disable my adblock plugin due to browser conflict issues and since then I've been graced with funny ads here.
    From the man with the giant fish in the right column(I'm getting Tsuritama vibes. Wait, is that fish edible?) to 'meet Chinese girl. Feel Lonely? Seek a Loyal Chinese Girl to Warm Up Your Soul.Free Join' to 'marry Japanese lady'.
    a)Japanese lady goes straight for the altar. Srs bsnss.
    b) There are no female users on the interweb. Where's my 'marry Japanese Guy'? Not that I would cheat on my blogging precious or anything.

  6. L

    Oh wow, I live here and I don't know about this. You should share more of these so we can discover them. I'll be sure to bring my friends and family to this thing next year, and check out Book Off, in addition to Kinokuniya in LA too.

  7. Well you know, I only share the ones I attend! But there are loads of links to calendars that share Japanese events all over California – we have a lot of them in this state.

  8. d

    Mind telling me the date of this event? Always the 5 August?
    Cause Im heading to California next August, just interested. In my country, August only has a Natsu Matsuri and a Cutural Fare in November. Held by 2 high schools in the area.

  9. You'll probably need to check as we get closer. Temples tend to have their Obon on the same weekend every year here (in Japan, it's a regional thing). Also, depending on where in CA you'll be you might find a couple of summer matsuri – SF Japantown has a street fair around the beginning of August.

Leave a Comment