Home Culture Obon


By Dana S. Mar The North American Post

I went to Bon Odori in a shiny pink yukata that hung just above my clunky wooden sandals, trailing a pink and red heko obi behind. Back then I had to eat my kakigōri (shaved ice) with great care so as not to splash bright, sticky red and blue over my festive attire.

Now I go to Bon Odori in shorts and a tie-dyed top, camera slung over one shoulder and a swath of hair over the other. No more need to dress up pretty for mom to snap pictures of me dancing to “Tankō Bushi” in my kokeshi-style hair. I fondly recall those days of sitting on a straw mat between my parents, enjoying a refreshing cup of sōmen. I still enjoy a good cup of sōmen these days, but now with much more skill at manipulating chopsticks and out of my own pocket money.

Now I go to Bon Odori with over seventy years of American history on my shoulders. Circling around and around in front of Seattle Betsuin as I have for so many years, this community dances to the beat of everyone’s drum. The drum we hold when we sit together to watch taiko performances and the drum we carry when we meet on happenstance at Uwajimaya or at a Mariners game. It is the sound of Japanese blood pumping from heart to soul and it is the same be it one or four generations old; one hundred percent or one-sixteenth.

How I envy those blissful young girls in their pretty yukata and meticulously styled hair. Would that I could return to such relaxed, worriless days. Perhaps one day we will stop hearing people ask our children, “where do you really come from?”

With each year more people come– some new and some from afar–but Seattle’s Bon Odori remains a refreshing reminder of all the years I have grown in this community. It is ever reassuring that I will always have the rhythmic drumming and familiar dances from “Sōran Bushi” to “Gōshū Ondo” to return to summer after summer. I just hope I remember to wear tie-dye again next year to hide the drops of red and blue shaved-ice syrup.