Dancers of all ages took part in Bon Odori.

West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple in Sawtelle Japantown held its first full Obon Festival since the pandemic, open to the public, on July 22 and 23.

ABA Sonics from Nishi Hongwanji performed oldies.

Obon memorial lanterns bearing the names of departed family members and friends were displayed on both days during the Bon Odori, which drew hundreds of dancers of all ages, both WLABT members and representatives of other temples and community centers with happi coats showing their affiliations.

During Bon Odori, Mark Sanwo provided live vocals for some of the songs and Rev. Koho Takata was one of the taiko drummers on the yagura.

Among the speakers greeting the dancers were Rev. Koho Takata and Rev. Ko’e Umezu of WLABT, who explained the significance of Obon; Grace Mizushima on behalf of the odori instructors; and Michael Amster, field deputy for District 11 City Councilmember Traci Park.

Kids enjoyed a variety of games, including the famous toilet paper roll toss.

Taiko drummers on the yagura, including Rev. Takata, kept time with the music and Mark Sanwo, who was a vocalist with the Chidori Band in San Jose, sang some of the songs. Young dancers enjoyed their favorite ondo songs, such as “One Plus One.”

West L.A. Taiko performed both days.

Entertainment on both days was provided by West L.A. Taiko and ABA Sonics, a band from Nishi Hongwanji specializing in oldies.

The dancers followed the lead of Grace Mizushima and other instructors.

Food booths offered curry rice, beef and chicken teriyaki, won ton, Imagawayaki, chashu bao, Spam musubi, corn on the cob, shave ice, and more. There were games and crafts for kids and bingo for adults.

The dance circle reached the length of a city block outside the temple grounds. (TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo)

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

Behind the scenes, volunteers busily prepared the food.
Bingo is a popular feature of many community festivals.

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