Obon dancers
Palos Verdes Peninsula High School

Gardena hosts Southern California’s largest Japanese Obon Festival

On August 1 and 2, streets closed down and lanterns were hung as the city of Gardena prepared for Southern California’s largest Obon Festival. Similar to “Día de los Muertos,” Japanese Obon Festival celebrates the spirits of one’s ancestors through song and dance. Obon festivals typically take place on summer weekends. This year, Southern California hosted festivals in Pasadena, West Covina, Venice, West LA, Downtown LA, Gardena, and Orange County.

The Gardena Buddhist Church Obon included carnival games, a craft fair, and live taiko drum performances. The festival served an abundance of food ranging from beef teriyaki to shaved ice, with the Okinawan “andagi” donut line stretching around the block.

The event attracted visitors of all ages, and some dancers traveled from as far as Arizona to celebrate the festival. Most of the attendees were dressed in traditional kimonos and happi coats, but that didn’t stop those sporting street style from joining in the dance circle.

Since 1949, the Gardena Buddhist Church has held obon festivals, and each year, the dance circle grows bigger and bigger to include new generations of families. The festival acts as a reminder that summertime is about spending time with loved ones, especially if that means sharing your moves on the dance floor.