Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Celebrating Japanese Culture with the Obon Dance
© Jay Lazarin istockphoto.com
We went to the Obon Dance at the Puna Hongwanji tonight. I love first walking up to the temple grounds, totally transformed by the strings of lanterns glowing in the night, the tall yagura platform calling everyone’s attention to the circle.
It is always great watching the elegant old ladies from the Japanese dance schools in their matching kimonos and perfectly coifed hair lead the way, their hands so graceful, their faces so calm. (Calm because they know that they know all the steps!) The little girls, of course, in their pink and red and Hello Kitty yukata with the big chiffon bows and their hair all full of flowers and curls are utterly meltingly adorable. The energy of the rambunctious Dharma School boys is infectious, with their matching Dharma School hapi coats and headbands, as they half dance half kung fu each other, the flashing red lights in their shoes syncopating their best moves. The YBA teens in tank tops and cut-off jeans move in packs, either gossiping and squealing by the food booths or running and jumping right into the middle of the circle, the boys energetically showing off for the girls. The favorite dances are obvious, the crowd surges when those start, everyone shouting chorus and response.
I find that the key to keeping up with the bon odori is to enter the circle just diagonally behind an old auntie, any old auntie will do. However, every time four-year-old Little Brother loses his slippah and I look away for one moment, my old auntie with the steps is gone, replaced by two Amazon haole women seven feet tall with gargantuan breasts and chopsticks in their hair who have even less of a clue than I. Finally I just carry Little Brother on my back and we dance the best we can (when he is not running off to play “Obi Kenobie” with his blue glow stick or holstering his blue glow stick down his pants). He loves the new Pokemon Ondo!
When the minyo band starts playing, though, watch out! Those old aunties can really move fast!
© 2011 – 2013, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang. All rights reserved.
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