The Obon Festival, one of the most colorful events in Japan, will come to life July 9 in Salt Lake City.
Highlighted with a feast, dancing and religious ceremonies, the Obon service is observed annually as a Buddhist Memorial Day for those who have departed. Its tradition is rich.The term "Bon," is derived from a Sanskrit term, "Ullambana," --literally meaning "to be hung upside down."
The Obon dance originated from the story of Mokuren (Mogallana), one of Gautama Buddha's disciples. According to translation, Mokuren danced with great joy when he found that his mother, who had been suffering in "hell" by being hung upside down because of her greediness during her lifetime, was saved after he had offered food to the poverty-stricken people in his town.
This offering was suggested by the Buddha. And the tradition has continued.
Buddhists on this occasion of the Obon Festival offer food in front of the family altar, make cemetery visitations, and dance the Bon Odori which is usually held outdoors.
"This is a time when we remember our predecessors, our pioneers, who felt the need for some kind of religion because of the cultural shock and trying to make a living in a foreign land," said Yukie Okubo, a member of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple.
"This is a way of remembering our predecessors and honoring them for establishing a religion that was so meaningful to them-- and is so important in our lives."
Okubo explained that the most meaningful aspect of Buddhism "is to try to understand the inter-dependence of all things in life."
"We cannot live alone," she said. "Understanding that allows us to live in peace and harmony."
Another church member added: Obon is not merely a memorial tribute to 'console the spirit of the dead' but a more poignant reminder of the duties and responsibilities we owe to ourselves, the living."
Salt Lake's annual Obon Festival will be held at the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, 211 W. First South. Chicken teriyaki, maki sushi, age sushi, chowmein dinners (and hotdogs for the kids) will be served from 1 to 8 p.m. --or until the food runs out.
Then the dancing will begin.
Dance practices are being held at the temple June 27-30, and July 1,5,6,and 7. The public is invited to join in and learn Japanese folk dancing. People wishing to dance at the festival must be properly attired in happi coats or yukatas (summer kimonos).
Religious services will begin July 10 at 1 p.m.