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    Obon Season Kicks Off in Little Tokyo

    Obon Season Kicks Off in Little Tokyo

    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 Obon 2017

    Nishi Obon 2017

    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.  

    A Day in Little Tokyo

    A Day in Little Tokyo

    One way to experience a taste of Japan in Southern California is to spend the day in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. This is a very walkable community with lots to see.  It had been awhile since I spent a full day there. Luckily this time I got to share the experience with a good friend from college!

    Little Tokyo

    We started the day off by visiting the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)on First and Central. I have been to JANM at least half a dozen times to view the exhibits but each time I visit I learn something new.

    Common Ground: The Heart of Community is the longstanding exhibit that traces the story of Japanese Americans since first immigrating here over 130 years ago:

    The rest of the Museum features rotating exhibitions. During our visit the other exhibits were focused on photography.  One was called Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920-1940, while the main exhibition, Two Views,showcased the work of famed photographers Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank. Both photographers chronicled the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II, including internment.

    We also visited the Manabi and Sumi Hirasaki National Resource Center (HNRC), where we looked through some books on family crests, saw George Takei heading into a meeting and found a brochure from our beloved alma mater:

    After touring the Museum for a couple of hours, we popped into the JANM store.  The JANM Store has some of the most interesting and original items relating to Japanese and Japanese American culture in Little Tokyo:

    We continued to walk around Little Tokyo, taking in the many sights that make this such a great place to explore:

    And no day in Little Tokyo would be complete without some fabulous Japanese food to end the adventure:

    Little Tokyo

    Make a visit!

    JANM is open:

    • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday–Sunday: 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
    • Thursday: 12 p.m.–8 p.m.*
    • Final visitor admissions are accepted 30 minutes before closing.

    Adults $9
    Seniors (62 and over) $5
    Students (with ID) and Youth (6-17) $5
    Children 5 and under and JANM Members, Free.
    *Free general admission every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day every third Thursday of the month.