Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom that honors the spirits of one's ancestors. In Japan, the custom can consist of returning to one's hometown, visiting and cleaning the graves of ancestors and attending local obon festivals. Here in Los Angeles, the occassion can mean different things to different families. But one thing is generally recognized by all: the gift of community and culture realized through obon festivals.
The obon festival "circuit" in Southern California runs every June through August at various temples throughout Southern California. One of the largest obon festivals can be found at Nishi Honganji in Little Tokyo, whick kicked off tonight. This festival is marked not only by the traditional bon odori (the style of dancing performed during the festival) but also by the array of family friendly activities offered. There are games, a farmer's market, live music, bingo, and food booths serving up sushi, somen, udon plate lunches and drinks like Calpico. It's truly an event by and for people of all ages, many of whom take the time to dress in summer yukata or hapi coats. The reunion-like atmosphere, compounded by the view of the DTLA skyline against the setting sun, makes this a one of a kind cultural event in Los Angeles.
Nishi's festival is on again tomorrow, 7/9, from 2 to 8:30PM, and more events are on slated at other temples. For a full schedule of upcoming 2017 obon festivals in Southern California, visit this list from Japanese City.