The humidity of a Japanese summer is broken by seasonal foods, excursions to the mountains and beaches and summer festivals. The principal summer event is OBON, an honoring of the spirits of the dead. Obon usually takes place between July-August. It is a time that many Japanese return to their hometowns and visit their families and enjoy the local traditions and festivals. A staple of the events is BON ODORI, folk dances performed outdoors and in concentric circles around a raised platform called a YAGURA. ODORI means dance and BON is the abbreviated name of a Buddhist text, URABON.
The Obon festival in Japan has been held annually since 657 A.D. Though a memorial observance, there is a festive mood. It is a time to remember and honor all those who have passed on before us, to appreciate all that they have done for us, and to recognize the continuation of the influence of their deeds upon our lives. Obon is also a time of self-reflection; the joy one feels is not from the happiness of getting what one desires, but the joy of awareness and appreciation. The first Bon Odori in the United States was performed in Hawaii in 1910. The first organized Bon Odori in the continental United States was held in the auditorium of the Buddhist Church of San Francisco in 1931. The odori has become a popular annual event across the United States, bringing together both those of Japanese heritage and others. See Obon for more information about Bon Odori in the western states, including Sacramento.