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Obon in the US

Getting excited for your next matsuri by looking through all of our content? I completely understand you, the food team is going to kill me with all these amazing looking pictures. I wish I could eat through the computer. Hopefully this gives you a little background on Obon in 


the United States, and helps you find an Obon to enjoy close to you!

Obon in the United States began in the early 20th century when Reverend Yoshio Iwanaga brought it to the mainland in his visits to California, Washington, Oregon, and Canada. He brought with him the tradition of Bon Odori, which is a central part of Obon in both Japan and America. The first Bon Odori was at the San Francisco Temple in 1931. By the mid 1930’s all of the large cities in California had Obon celebrations. During World War Two, the Japanese were incarcerated in camps around the country. Upon their release, Obon festivals were quiet for a number of years, but by the 1950’s the Obon festivals had returned and have been growing ever since. Festivals have also spread from the west coast into the rest of the United States. Let’s take a look at modern Obon festivals in the United States.

If you live in California, there’s great news for you. There are Obon festivals in most major cities, and you are almost sure to have access to some Obon festivities. Festivals take place in the Bay Area, Central California, and all over Southern California. The San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple are two of many Buddhist temples in the Los Angeles area that put on Obon festivals. Keep an eye out online for festivals next summer, as we all return to a safe and fun celebration of Obon.


In the pacific northwest, there are festivals in Seattle, Tacoma, Ontario, Portland and Olympia.  The Puget Sound area is filled with spam musubi, while yaki onigiri is a staple in Seattle. Most matsuri in the United States will have a staple or feature food like this.  Enjoy all of

the regional matsuri specialties! Obon festivals have spread from coast to coast, and can be found in many major cities that have substantial Japanese populations and communities. The Obon festival in Chicago takes place in the parking lot of a Mitsuwa parking lot, which is a cultural center for the Chicagoan Japanese community, The massive Japanese community in New York also puts on many Obon festivals across the city during the summer. All of these festivals have different specialty foods and traditions that make them all very interesting. I highly recommend finding an Obon festival near you and enjoying the festivities this summer.

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