I must admit, that in my 16 years of being active in the JA community and in Little Tokyo, I have never been to the Nishi Obon on First Street. This year, because my daughter is enrolled in the preschool, we went both Saturday, to watch the preschoolers do odori and sing songs, and Sunday, to take a 2 hour shift working in the busy Snow Cone booth (that's me working in the middle).
I wasn't disappointed... the Obon festival was great. They had great entertainment with cute kids in kimonos and yukatas, lots of awesome heart-pounding taiko, Okinawan music, air-conditioned bingo, a Kendo demonstration, lots of kitschy games for the kids, a wonderful Farmer's Market and Plant Sale. We bought a 2 foot cucumber plant for $2.50, and my mom bought my daughter a pretty potted flower for $1. Then, my husband bought a little radio for my daughter for 50 cents at the White Elephant Sale. Can't beat that. And, over the 2 days, I tried the sushi, chili rice, salmon plate, dango, and snow cones. Pretty tasty food, among the better obon eats I've had recently. Unfortunately, we missed the dancing in the evening, but all in all, it was a great obon.
After attending both days, watching the 2 day set up, and still observing the tear-down when I picked up my daughter after preschool this evening, I have a greater sense of appreciation for all the teamwork, sweat and dedication that goes into producing this annual event. I learned this weekend that the Nishi Obon has been in existence for over 60 years, and even more impressive, that the Temple is 103 years old. As I grow older, I am thankful for these long-standing community and religious/spiritual institutions in Little Tokyo and their role in keeping people connected to JA culture through things like food, music and dance.