Bon Odori: People’s dance to return to Buddhist temples this summer

Bon Odori Yukata in Red

Bon Odori dance at Los Angeles Nishi Hongwanji. Bon Odori is an informal dance by ordinary people in Japan. The Japanese American communities in California have enjoyed this people’s dance since 1930s. Every year people return to Buddhist temples to dance. (Cultural News Photo)

Cultural News, June 2010 Issue

Bon Odori Dance is an annual summer fixture in Japan during August. Dance circles are formed spontaneously by ordinary people just for fun. Here in Southern California and Arizona, Bon Odori is known as Buddhist temple events in the months of June and July. But with each passing year, this informal dance is gaining popularity beyond the Japanese American community.

Bon Odori in Japan can be traced back to the 15th century. Originally, people danced for a ritual purpose, but eventually the dancing became more of an entertainment. In the past, Bon Odori  became extremely gaudy at times, and it was banned frequently from the15th century until the Meiji era in the 19th century.

In Japan, Buddhist temples never host the Bon Odori on their  temple grounds. Nowadays, the Bon Odori is usually organized by laypeople and takes place at an open-space or park.

On the West Coast of the United States, a Japanese priest of the Jodo Shinshu school as known as Nishi Hongwanji temples introduced Bon Odori to the Japanese immigrant community in the 1930s and this tradition continues today.

Every year, Cultural News gathers Bon Odori schedules for dance enthusiasts:

June 12

Arizona Buddhist Temple

4142 West Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85019, (602) 278-0036, ABT_AZ@juno.com

Bon Odori at 4:00pm

June 26, 27

Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center

1766 Seabright Ave, Long Beach, CA 90813

Japanese festival, Saturday 3:00 – 9:00 PM, Sunday 1:00-7:30PM

June 26, 27

Sun Valley Japanese Community Center

8850 Lankershim Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352

Bon Odori at 5:00-10:00pm

June 26

Senshin Buddhist Temple

1311 W. 37th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007, (323) 731-4617, www.senshintemple.org

Bon Odori at 7:00pm

June 26

West Covina Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

1203 W. Puente Avenue, West Covina, Calif. 91790, (626) 913-0622 www.livingdharma.org

Bon Odori at 7:30pm

July 3, 4

San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

9450 Remick Avenue, Pacoima, CA 91331, (818) 899-4030, www.sfvhbt.org

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 10, 11

Los Angeles Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

815 East First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 680-9130 www.nishihongwanji-la.org

Bon Odori:  Saturday at 7:00 pm; Sunday at 6:30pm

July 10, 11

Zenshuji Soto Mission

123 South Hewitt Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 624-8658, www.zenshuji.org

July 10

Oxnard Buddhist Temple

250 S. “H” Street, Oxnard, CA 93030, (805) 483-5948 www.oxnardbuddhisttemple.org

Bon Odori at 6:00pm, 8:00pm

July 17, 18

Orange County Buddhist Church

909 So. Dale Street, Anaheim, CA 92804, (714) 827-9590, www.ocbuddhist.org

Bon Odori at 7:00pm

July 17, 18

Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

12371 Braddock Drive, Culver City, CA 90230, (310) 391-4351, www.vhbt.org

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 18

Guadalupe Buddhist Church

1072 Olivera Street, Guadalupe, CA 93434, (805) 343-1053

Bon Odori at noon

July 24, 25

Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

505 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, Calif. 90013, (213) 626-4200 www.hhbt-la.org

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 24, 25

West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple

2003 Corinth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 477-7274, www.wlabt.org

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 24, 25

Pasadena Buddhist Church

1993 Glen Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103, (626) 798-4781, www.PasadenaBuddhistTemple.org

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 24, 25

Vista Buddhist Temple

150 – Bldg. B Cedar Road, Vista, CA 92083, (760) 941-8800, www.vbtemple.org

Bon Odori at 7:00pm

July 31

Buddhist Temple of San Diego

2929 Market Street, San Diego, CA 92102, (619) 239-0896, www.btsd.net

Bon Odori at 6:30pm

July 31

San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple

6996 Ontario Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, (805) 595-2625 www.slobuddhisttemple.org

Bon Odori at 7:00pm

July 31, August 1

Gardena Buddhist Church

1517 W. 166th Street, Gardena, CA 90247, (310) 327 – 9400, www.gardenabuddhistchurch.org

Bon Odori at 6:00pm

Bon Odori 2008 Nishi Yagura

Bon Odori Dance at Los Angeles Nishi Hongawanji