Dancers of all ages and backgrounds joined in, some wearing yukata or happi coats and some in their regular clothes. (Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

WEST COVINA — West Covina Buddhist Temple held its 44th annual Obon Festival on Saturday at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.

Steve Minoda played the taiko on the yagura. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

In addition to food and games, the event featured performances by Fujima Kansai (classical dance), Bodhi Tree Band and Kishin Daiko; demonstrations of karate, kendo, judo and shinkendo; displays by the temple’s Dharma School, Jr. YBA and Hana Club, Mt. Baldy Bonsai Club, West Covina Yukari Kai (kimekomi dolls) and West Covina Kambei Art Club; and an arts and crafts boutique.

For those observing Hatsubon for a loved one who has passed away since the last Obon, a Manto-E service was conducted by Revs. Kenjun Kawawata, Peter Hata and Fred Brenion.

Everyone was invited to join the Bon Odori, regardless of whether they were dressed for the occasion or had attended the practice sessions. According to emcee Joanie Martinez, the celebratory group dance symbolizes the “world of oneness” that is the goal of Buddhist teaching.

Lead dancers were Jennifer Higa, Stephanie Jitosho, JoAnne Shimizu Eto, Pat Kasahara and Gail Kusano. Steve Minoda kept the beat on the taiko and Joanie Martinez emceed.

Dances included “Bon Odori Uta,” “Memanbetsu Hayashi,” “Gassho Ondo,” “Tokyo Gorin Ondo,” “Mottainai,” “Kyushu Tanko Bushi,” “Shiawase Samba” and “Ichi Tasu Ichi” (1+1). Members from other temples joined in, coming from as far away as Parlier in Central California.

The temple's ministers conducted a Manto-E service before the Bon Odori. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto)
Left: Meiling Chen and Shoko Tsai show off an okonomiyaki, one of the items on the menu at the food booths. Right: The shaved ice booth drew a lot of customers on a hot afternoon. (Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)
Bingo games continued until closing time. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

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