Many of the dancers, including Midori Sanchez (center), wore yukata or happi coats.


LONG BEACH — Long Beach Buddhist Church’s Obon Festival, one of the Southern California Nikkei community’s final summer events, was held on Aug. 27.

Ryujin Taiko (Steve, Robie and Cayli La) performed before the dancing.

Chaired by Robert Yasumura and emceed by David Yamamoto, the festival included an Obon service, food booths, an opportunity drawing, and Bon Odori led by dance instructor June Miyamoto Donovan. Ryujin Taiko gave a mini-concert and provided the beat during the dancing.

Actress and activist Tamlyn Tomita was among the participants from San Fernando Valley’s Meiji Ondo Dancers.

The 21 dances included classics such as “Tanko Bushi,” “Ichi Tasu Ichi” (One Plus One) and “Shiawase Samba”; newer compositions such as “Nikkei Ondo” and “Eijanaika”; and dances based on the manga/anime “Pokemon” and “Tonari no Totoro.” In some cases traditional songs were mixed with pop tunes.

June Miyamoto Donovan, pictured with her daughter Amanda, was the lead dance instructor.

The biggest group was the Terminal Islanders. Also represented were the Meiji Ondo Dancers from San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center (including Tamlyn Tomita, her husband and her mother), Southeast Japanese School and Community Center in Norwalk, Higashi Honganji in Little Tokyo, San Diego Buddhist Temple, Gardena Buddhist Church, Orange County Buddhist Church in Anaheim, Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, and Sun Valley Buddhist Temple.

The Terminal Islanders sent a large contingent of dancers.

“It was great to see such a big turnout and everyone dancing were having a great time,” Donovan said. “It was especially fun because of all the people.”

Ryujin Taiko, including Steve La on the yagura, provided the beat during the Bon Odori.

“So grateful to see so many people come out to honor our Obon and to dance with us for our Bon Odori,” said Yasumura. “Made new friends and got to see old friends we’ve missed for the past two years. Thank you to all of our church members and volunteers who made this day possible.”

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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