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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seattle Bon Odori Continues To Make Memories

Above center: Crowds of all ages gather on both sides of the street by the Seattle Buddhist Church to get good views of the dancers at the 2oo8 Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Like many residents of the greater Seattle area, my family and I mark the arrival of mid-summer with the arrival of a handful of our most favorite area festivals, one of them being the Seattle Bon Odori.

My father, Frank Aoyama, was a native of the Emerald City having arrived as the last of four children born to my immigrant grandparents, Koichi and Chiyo Aoyama, when they were living in a rental home at 10th Avenue S. and S. Main Street above Seattle's International District about fourteen years prior to the beginning of World War II.
Left: My dad, Frank Aoyama, as a boy.

This house was located across the street from the Seattle Buddhist Temple where the Seattle Bon Odori became a custom in the local Nikkei (Japanese-American) community since August 15, 1932, according to an article by Shihou Sasaki writing for The North American Post (Summer Memories of the Seattle Bon Odori, July 9, 2008.) In 1934, the festival moved four blocks away to what was then the heart of pre-war Nihonmachi or Japantown where it continued to attract yet more attention, but still in very close proximity to my father's house for the rest of his formative years. And while his family was not of the Buddhist faith, memories of the Bon Odori were among those Dad was most fond.
Left: Seattle rental house where my dad was born on 10th Avenue S. and Main Street.

I have been attending the Bon Odori off and on since my parents owned a home on Beacon Hill in the mid-fifties to late sixties, just a few blocks south of Holly Park. After my son was born in the mid-eighties, my husband and I would always consider a possible trip to the Seattle Bon Odori, now a part of Seafair (or one of two others in nearby Auburn or Tacoma) when booking our summer family plans.

Left: Taiko drummers lend their skills at the 2008 Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Now that our son has become an adult, it has been a few years since my husband and I made the trip to town to visit the Seattle Bon Odori. The pictures included with this blog were taken during at this year's festivities held Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20th.

For those who may be interested The North American Post, is no newcomer to the ethnic community newspaper scene having served as its masthead declares proudly as "your voice of the Nikkei community since 1902."

Below center: Colorfully dressed dancers from the community carrying fans participated in one group number at the Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.


Jaynie Jones said...

This is a delightful post that is made rich with the early photos of the house where your father was born and also the picture of him as young boy. The Bon Adori pictures are wonderful additions, too. You are at your best when you are sharing your family's history and traditions.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your memories. I always have a good time at Tacoma's Bon Odori hosted by the Tacoma Buddhist Church. Perhaps this blog can do a story about it before next year's festival.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Mizu, wonderful post! I love the photos, especially the old ones. The Northwest has color and texture due to the various traditions that call it home. Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Tacoma's Bon Odori would make a great Blog Squad affair!

Kim Thompson said...

I learned many new things this morning, thanks to you, Mizu!

Anonymous said...

I've posted two pictures taken at this year's Tacoma Bon Odori. (I have a lot more). I love the Seattle Bon Odori, and the Tacoma festival has great local charm with a neighborhood feel. Everyone is invited, its a street party! Just make sure you get out and dance and enjoy a great family afternoon. See you next year.


Lorraine Hart said...

A rich sharing Mizu, thank you!

I'd love to learn to dance with a fan...used to try when I was little.

'Course...then there's the side of me that would really really love to get into those drums!

Kim Thompson said...


When is the Tacoma Bon Odori? It would be good to know for pre-planning because I am so there!



M. Sugimura said...

Tuddo -

Enjoyed the pictures you posted as well. Hope to be posting a few more Seattle Bon Odori pictures at my own blog "LiquidMuse-NW" in the next day or two if you're interested in seeing a few more...

Was originally thinking to go to the Tacoma Bon Odori - but had a conflict in the family schedule on July 13.

Have you ever attended White River (Auburn's) Bon Odori? You might like it as sizewise, it's a little bigger than Tacoma and much smaller than Seattle's.

In many ways, it combines some of the best of both and it's coming up on Saturday, July 26, from 5:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

According to the "links" site at Seattle Betsuin - food booths open at 5:00 p.m. at White River, 3625 Auburn Way North, with dancing beginning at 6:15 p.m.

Food booths will feature beef bowls, teriyaki chicken bento lunch, somen, kori, hot dogs, hamburgers, desserts and cold beverages.

Featured guests will be the drummers from Seattle Betsuin Matsuri Taiko at 7:15 p.m.

M. Sugimura said...

Lorraine -

I can see you pounding away on a taiko drum!

M. Sugimura said...

Jaynie & Stephanie -

Yes, the old pictures do a lot to set some context for an old family tradition don't they? When I was little and we went there - Dad told us that this was just like Japan. Incidentally, he'd never been there as yet, my folks went years later when he retired.

Normally, I would have passed that observation down the line however having married an actually Nihon-jin (native Japanese person) my son got the bona fide reality check.

So when my son went there, he was told that even though your mother's family were told this is what being in Japan might be like - it's so not Bon Odori in Japan, but it's the American version and we can enjoy it.

To a certain extent, it's like "sushi" which looked and came in certain forms years past - which isn't completely the same as what forms and flavors it comes in today, but has morphed into something far more popular and universal and celebrated than what we ever imagined! :)

So goes the constant "evolution" of our family stories and traditions......

M. Sugimura said...

Everyone -

A la getting together and going to Tacoma's Bon Odori next year as a group - I have more than one item that could pass as a suitable garment to wear - let's start working on this. Dancing lessons are offered prior to the local Bon's - at least in Seattle. We could also plan to hit a few of those. I know I would have to do it. Having 2 left feet for starters - anything would help.

Anonymous said...

Usually Tacoma's Obon is the second Sunday in July, Seattle's the third and White River is the last Sunday in July. Olympia is in there somewhere (1st Sunday in August?) Tacoma's is held at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple at 1717 S Fawcett.

I am not Buddhist, not Japanese, and not a good dancer, but the peaceful celebration and gentle reflection through repetitive dance movements that honor family members who have passed is relaxing, enjoyable and connects me with a community that has a rich history here in the Northwest.

I have made many friends through the years and even have toured Japan with a group from the Tacoma Temple. That was a treat to see Japan with people who have a variety of levels of connections, spiritually, culturally as well as generationally with the places we visited.

I wonder how my strict Baptist grandparents would react if they knew I was honoring them by dancing? You know, I think they would be pleased.


Lorraine Hart said...

I agree could your grandparents NOT enjoy your loving honouring of them.

I'd love to try for next year Mizu!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Me, too!

Kim Thompson said...

I'm in.

M. Sugimura said...

Tuddo -

It's people like yourself that give me a sense of hope about the world on those days when well - it's dark and cloudy. Feel free to share more about your life (even your strict Baptist grandparents who must have an interesting story of their own) as we'll no doubt broaden our own perspectives as we hear from your side of the fence! :)