Obon festival is a Buddhist observance of remembering the dead, which some also believe is the season their ancestor’s souls return to visit their families. The families would prepare fruit on altars for their ancestors at home as a welcoming gesture. This tradition has been celebrated for more than 500 years in Japan during the summer, usually between July 15th until September 15th from region to region. The festival is also the time local communities and residents come together and celebrate with folk dances (Bon Odori) and folk music with joy.
In New York City, it is the day for all of us to reunite with families and friends, and also to have a good time. The festival was held in Bryant Park almost annually where you would find women dressed in bright color, cotton-made summer kimonos (yukata) and men in solid color yukata. A group of trained dancers performed the Japanese folk dance (bon-odori) along with folk songs representing several regions in Japan. The dancers started by circling a traditional drum player, and then visitors attending the event were encouraged to join the fun by participating in the group and dance together mimicking the moves of the professionals. The dance actually depicts the historical or geographical background of some regions in Japan. If I’m not mistaken, one of the dances performed was clearly depicting an action of ‘digging’ and it is said to be the ‘coal mining’ moves.
The energy of the entire event was invigorated by the spectacular ancient Japanese drum (Taiko) performance. The Soh Daiko team has been in the city for more than 30 years. The thundering sound of the drums and the creative dance -like movements of the drummers was very intense and entertaining at the same time. There was a huge audience turnout, but I was lucky to stand in front of the crowd, and was able enjoy the best view for the entire performance. I was impressed with the joyous facial expressions by all the drummers despite the tremendous strength and stamina that was needed to beat those big drums for so long. I think that could be the spirit of a great team with one heart coming together..