Teri Ezaki dances at the West Covina Buddhist Temple Obon Festival held on June 24. The annual summer gathering was back to full strength for the first time since 2019.

WEST COVINA — For the first time in three summers, the rumble of the taiko rang out, the aroma of chicken teriyaki wafted overhead and scores of visitors navigated the dance circle.

The dance circle was decorated with lanterns honoring departed loved ones.
After leading the Manto-e service to honor loved ones passed on, West Covina Buddhist Temple Rinban Nobuko Miyoshi joins the Bon Odori as dancers make their way around the circle.

The West Covina Buddhist Temple hosted what it called its “comeback” Obon Festival on June 24.

The annual summer gathering last took place in 2019, then falling victim to the pandemic the next two years.

“We had a small get-together last year, only for members,” said West Covina Buddhist Temple Rinban Nobuko Miyoshi. “There were only a few dances and we had bento, but we were grateful for that.

“Today, this is a really moving experience to see everyone together again like this – young parents who brought kids, many who came as kids themselves. They realize the importance of community bonding.”

Kevin Kubota and Kishin Daiko kept time on the taiko during the Bon Odori.

Above: It’s all smiles from the Martinez family for a photo op.

Right: A young participant is taught the dance steps. Seven dance practices were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays prior to the festival, but everyone was invited to join in regardless of experience.

Below: Well-known for his enthusiasm for “Shiawase Samba,” Kenta Saito adds to the enjoyment.

The dancing was preceded by a Manto-e service honoring loved ones who passed away during the past year.

The scaled-down menu included chicken teriyaki plate, chicken chow mein, and beer.

Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo

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