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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Buddhist Temple plans traditional Obon celebration

Participants demonstrate the gentle dance called Bon Odori, part of the Obon festival, planned for Saturday and Sunday at the Spokane Buddhist Temple. Traditionally dancers wear hapi coat or kimono.
Participants demonstrate the gentle dance called Bon Odori, part of the Obon festival, planned for Saturday and Sunday at the Spokane Buddhist Temple. Traditionally dancers wear hapi coat or kimono.

For the first time in a long time, the Spokane Buddhist Temple will host an Obon festival this weekend.

“We haven’t had an Obon festival in 25 or 30 years,” said Mari Haworth, Temple board member.

The traditional summer Buddhist celebration honors ancestors, and it’s especially popular on the West Coast.

Haworth said Eileen Tanaka, a relatively new member of the temple, came up with the idea to bring the Obon festival back.

In Japan, the festival has been celebrated since the seventh century and Haworth explained that the folktale that goes along with the festival is about a man whose mother has died.

“He finds out that his mother’s soul is not at peace as she is waiting for her next life,” Haworth said, explaining that the man’s guru said he had to do something good for the community to help balance his mother’s bad deeds. “When he finds out his mother is at peace he breaks into dance to celebrate and honor her life.” That dance – the Bon Odori or Bon dance – will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday on the green between the temple and its gymnasium.

“We have put hours and hours into practicing the dance,” Haworth said. “Many of us have never even been to an Obon festival.”

Festival visitors will be encouraged to participate in the dance.

The festival also features drumming by Spokane Taiko and the singing of Japanese folksongs as well as a performance featuring Tibetan Singing Bowls – metal bowls played with various drumsticks to help meditation and sound healing.

There will be many children’s games and exhibits featuring Japanese Manga and anime.

“And of course there’s food, lots of food,” Haworth said. “Everyone is welcome.”

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