Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s Bon Odori Festival coming Aug. 4

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The summer Bon Odori Festival has been an annual tradition for more than 70 years sponsored by the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. The public is welcome to participate and enjoy traditional Japanese festival dancing, taiko drumming, Japanese food and a beer garden serving beer and sake. At the end the evening is a candle lighting ceremony in the Temple garden.

Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon Odori.

Bon Odori is a style of dancing performed during Bon. The way in which the dance is performed is different in each region, though the typical Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a yagura. The Bon dance tradition is said to have started in the later years of the Muromachi period as a public entertainment. In the course of time, the original religious meaning has faded, and the dance has become associated with summer.

Bon Odori festivals are celebrated in North America, particularly by Japanese-Americans or Japanese-Canadians affiliated with Buddhist temples and organizations. Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) temples in the U.S. typically celebrate Bon Odori with both religious Bon observances and traditional Bon Odori dancing around a yagura. Many temples also concurrently hold a cultural and food bazaar providing a variety of cuisine and art, also to display features of Japanese culture and Japanese-American history. Performances of taiko by both amateur and professional groups have recently become a popular feature of Bon Odori festivals. Bon Odori festivals are usually scheduled anytime between July and September.

The Tacoma Buddhist Temple is located at 1717 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma. Everyone is invited to this free festival.

For more on the Bon Odori Festival, visit www.tacomabt.org or www.facebook.com/tacomabuddhisttemple.

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