Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gardena Obon Festival

Earlier in the month we went to the Gardena Obon Festival. I never posted the pictures because I thought that I might edit them in Picnik. But I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm lazy. :)

My plan is to distract you with cute children. How adorable are those little girls?!

The Obon Festival is the Buddhist "Festival of the Dead" or "Feast of Lanterns".

I will now hang my head in shame as I did not get a single picture of the lanterns.


This was actually the before picture. Then mom came over and gave a quick lesson on sitting like a lady.

I have a soft spot for kids in kimonos.

The Obon Festival may sound like a sad or somber festival but its not at all! It is thought that during this time each year the spirits of ancestors that have passed will come back to join their families again. Obon is a festival of welcoming and honoring the dead. Its a time to celebrate the homecoming of our families!


This Obon Festival is at the Gardena Buddhist Church. It is the largest in Southern California and happens to be my grandma's church. You know what all churches have in common?

Fantastic church lady food! And church man food, of course.


This is called Dango. Its basically fried-goodness. A batter of sorts. Its not sweet like a donut, more like a dense hushpuppy or fritter. I'd like to sound more knowledgeable but that's all I've got for you. You should have seen the line for this stuff!


The highlight of the Obon Festival is the Bon Odori. Hee, that sentence makes very little sense without explanation.

The Bon Odori is the cultural dance you can see in these pictures.


Each area of Japan has a different dance. This year there were over 1,000 dancers in Gardena!


I see a future Taiko drummer in the making. Unfortunately, we missed the Taiko performance. We could hear it in the distance but never made it over. Next year, we'll get there earlier. I was able to look up some of the performances here.


The members of the church and members of the community learn the dances in the few months before the celebration.

You don't have to be Buddhist or Japanese to be a part of the Obon Festival. Its is quite a community building event.

In the dances each of the movements have a meaning that are meant to soothe the spirits of those who have died as they travel back to their original homes.


Isn't she a doll?!

Various groups travel to each other's churches to participate in different Obons. Gardena had dancers from as far as Kona, Hawaii.


Some dress in the Yukata (light cotton kimono- please someone correct me if my informations is wrong), some in a t-shirt and shorts. This isn't a formal affair. You can just jump right in and mimic the repetitive movements.


This cutie is my niece Kate. She wouldn't let me take a picture but I caught her looking at her mom. Her younger sister is chubs.


See this gentleman. He had no idea what he was doing. You see, the lines of dancers go around in a big oval. Suddenly he just popped up and jumped in. He grabbed random people as he walked by and encouraged them to dance.


This flasher is my nephew Josh. B took this and I'm not sure what was going on here. Its a common kid thing, isn't it? He seems to be very serious. I wonder what kind of negotiations were being achieved.


Oh and this little one was so adorable I almost stole her. People frown on kidnapping, so i took pictures instead.

She is high-fiving my brother as she tells him quite a story. I couldn't say for sure what she was talking about as she was speaking Japanese. I don't speak Japanese.


I'm almost positive she is schooling him on the significane of lanterns to the Obon Festival. Lanterns are traditionally hung to help guide your ancestors home. White lanterns more specifically for those who have recently passed as it is thought they will need more help finding their way.

At the end of the festival the ancestor spirits must return to the world from which they came. In many areas a family member will light a lantern and float it down the river to help guide their loved ones home.

Or maybe she just liked the pretty lantern.



  1. Wow it just looks so fantastic. I love those last photos - I now want a kimono with strawberries on it more than anything in the world!

  2. Those kids! Just adorable from the unladylike sitting to those adorable red flip flops. (They might not actually be flip flops but they kind of look like it.) What a neat celebration!

  3. OMG --oodles and oodles of cuteness here!! I need a baby kimono stat!

  4. Festivals are so much fun! Oh, and baby kimonos! too cute!

  5. Lovely pictures. There's so much happiness here! The children are beautiful.

  6. So lovely... and I *love* the "before photo" of the girls in their kimonos hangin' on the curb... brings back memories of teaching my own girl how not to flash your underwear to all and sundry. :)

    I want one of those fried dough balls, they look deelish!

  7. This is so cool. I want to find something like this in my area. Although, I'm in Vegas, and let's just say there isn't a lot of culture here. My husband's father's family is Japanese and I would love to give my son some way to celebrate his heritage. No one will ever believe that the little blondie has a fraction of Japanese in him, but still... a fun party with church lady food?!? Who could turn that down? Thanks for this post!

  8. Dandy,

    Thanks so much for this very beautiful festival. I love the significance and meaning that goes behind the cultural traditions. I love all the beautiful clothes and robes that everyone was wearing and the smiling faces show that this was a fun event.

    Love learning about something new, and thanks to you I have another one to add to my book.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  9. Dandy,

    Thanks so much for this very beautiful festival. I love the significance and meaning that goes behind the cultural traditions. I love all the beautiful clothes and robes that everyone was wearing and the smiling faces show that this was a fun event.

    Love learning about something new, and thanks to you I have another one to add to my book.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  10. how cool! the food ohmuhgosh! and sweet little girlies with kimonos! ugh Im totally jealous. I would have tried that dance out...I am fairly certain.

  11. Those are the cutest red tongued girls I've ever seen. LOVE that last photo. I'd frame that one for sure.

  12. Wow that looks so amazing! I would love to go to something like that. The explanation and pictures were awesome. I secretly wish I was Japanese!

  13. Gorgeous pics, Dawn! We have no festival around here such as this one ... what a beautiful way to welcome back departed ones.
    I LOVE those sweet little girls in their kimonos!

    And your niece is just a precious delicate little flower! What a cutie you have for a nephew!

    Looks like such a great time! ... just stop showing all of the great food, though, OK, I know every time you have pictures of food on your blog, I gain two pounds!

  14. No editing needed! Those photos were brilliant! And who would even think to photograph lanterns when little girls like that abound?

    I thought Kate and Chubs looked a bit alike! Josh sure is a cutie too.

    And that last little girl??? Ah! She had strawberries on her kimono! That is too cute!


  15. Your photographs are breathtaking. Especially the very last one! You have an amazing eye for pictures!

  16. Oh that's fantastic! I hummed "Sukiyaki" the whole time I read this. hehe. I'm moving to SoCal in like a week, and going to a Bon festival would be an awesome day trip!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog - I hope your tortillas go well!


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