Obon Festival returns to San Jose following assassination of former Japanese prime minister

ByTim Johns via KGO logo
Monday, July 11, 2022
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Centuries of culture and tradition were on display Saturday at San Jose's Obon Festival, dedicated to remembering and honoring the dead.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Centuries of culture and tradition were on display Saturday at San Jose's Obon Festival.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist tradition, dedicated to remembering and honoring the dead.

"We don't do this a whole lot, so being able to do this once a year is really nice to come together with everyone and be able to celebrate," said Ashley MacDonald.

Ashley MacDonald is a fourth generation Japanese American.

She dances in the festival every year, something that's become a family tradition.

VIDEO: A tiny Japanese fire truck named 'Kiri' connects San Francisco and Japan

"We dance in remembrance of those who have passed, friends and family. And we actually have a lantern up here for our grandma," MacDonald said.

But this weekend's festival is also about more than just remembering personal loved ones lost. It's also a chance to reflect on recent events.

One of the events on many people's minds Saturday was the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe was Japan's longest serving prime minister, and one of it's most influential since the end of World War II.

Gun-related deaths are extremely rare in Japan, and Abe's killing has sent shockwaves through the Japanese community both here in the Bay Area, and around the world.

VIDEO: Shinzo Abe assassination: Former prime minister's death raises security questions as Japan mourns

"I was feeling like that is impossible. Never heard of that kind of thing in Japan," said festival goer, Huaino Hung.

And while Obon is one of the highlights for the Japanese community in the South Bay, its organizers say everyone is welcome.

Regaining a sense of community, after being the pandemic forces us apart.

"We're very open. There's no requirement here. You don't have to be Buddhist, you don't have to be Japanese. Come down, enjoy the food, enjoy the dancing," said Michael Jones, of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.

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