One of Northern California’s events that I highly recommend attending at least once is the Obon Festival in Downtown San Jose’s Japantown. Obon is an annual Buddhist event to commemorate one’s ancestors that are no longer with us. Traditionally families gather together to clean graves and welcome the spirits of ancestors. The Obon Festival is a two day event which has become a community staple with people returning year after year to attend.
Head down early to save seats for the Taiko drumming, which begins around noon. Get a coffee or tea at Roy’s Station while you wait for the performances to start. There are multiple performances throughout the afternoon and several different Taiko groups from around the state perform over the weekend.
A large food tent offers a variety of Japanese food, but the Gyoza was definitely my favorite! Walk around the corner to get some shaved ice at Shuei-Do Manju Shop or across the street at Banana Crêpe. These are very popular stops on a warm day, so try to go early!
Everything features bright colors, flowers, and lanterns. The banners hang from the lamp posts year round, but they match the decor of the Obon Festival.
The Buddhist temple is open so definitely stop in to look around the temple between Taiko performances. Preserved during the war, the building and its decor are original. The outdoor garden area is a beautiful spot to take some pictures.
Later in the evening, the traditional Bon Odori dancing begins. Men, women, and children dress in beautiful kimonos or matching family outfits.
Each of the lanterns has a name commemorating a loved one. While the festival doesn’t go late into the evening, the lanterns looked really spectacular at night time.