Dancers from VHBT and other temples participated. Many wore face masks as a precaution. (Courtesy VHBT)

For the first time since 2019, the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple held their Obon Festival on July 16-17. 

Teams of volunteers prepared the food. (Courtesy VHBT)

This was a two-day, in-person festival, offering delicious food, fun and games, a silent auction and opportunity drawing, and sales of Obon T-shirts and merchandise. 

Snow cones and kintoki were popular menu items.

The highlight of the weekend was Bon Odori on both nights, as instructors Judy Hopfield and Julia Ueda led nearly 1,000 dancers from Venice Hongwanji and friends from temples and community organizations across Southern California and beyond. 

Games for kids included the Aloha Toss.

The expressions of joy and the energy and spirit exhibited by all the dancers showed just how grateful and happy everyone was for being together again. 

Rev. Kory Quon welcomed the gathering. Dianne Kujubu Belli served as emcee.

The featured food offering was Mamechan’s Obon Dinner (Mamechan is the Venice Hongwanji mascot) guided by Chef Chris Ono, which included chicken teriyaki, wonton, andagi (Okinawa dango), tsukemono and rice. Also on the menu were chili rice, chicken salad, and sushi. Our middle-schoolers (Sangha Teens) prepared shave ice and kintoki. 

Taiko drummers, including Claire Imada, took turns keeping the beat on the yagura.

Our many volunteers ranging from ages 5 to 90 worked tirelessly yet happily to make this a huge success. 

A silent auction was held indoors.

Our awesome Obon logo was designed by our talented artist Dustin Noriyuki, and was printed on special Obon T-shirts and our custom label Obon popcorn. 

Dancers from different temples could be identified by their attire. The red and white happi coats were from VHBT.

The theme for this year’s Obon was #togetheragain, and we hope it will be the first of many more to come. Thank you to those who supported the return of our Obon Festival, and we look forward to meeting again next year. 

A new logo was designed by Dustin Noriyuki. (Courtesy VHBT)

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)

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