Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obon Festival and a Special Book by Lucy Ozone Hawkinson

Guess what's coming up this weekend? The West LA Obon Festival!

What is an Obon festival, you ask? The Obon festival is a 500 year old Japanese Buddhist custom that is held to honor one's ancestors. At the Obon festival, the Japanese people welcome their ancestors' spirits with food and dance.  They celebrate with games, food booths, raffles, drums, and the Bon Odori dance. In the United States, Obon festivals are held at Japanese Buddhist Temples all over the country. It is also a fundraiser for the temples. The West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple sponsors our basketball league, so every year, all the West Los Angeles team members volunteer to help out at the Obon festival by staffing the various booths.

When we were kids, my team used to volunteer at the game booths at the Obon but now we have been "promoted" to a food booth. The Obon Festival is super fun, so go check it out this Saturday and Sunday!!!  I'll be serving food on Saturday.

On another note, there's a really cute children's book about the Obon festival called Dance, Dance, Amy-Chan by Lucy Ozone Hawkinson, written in 1964. Lucy Ozone Hawkinson is a Japanese American author who wrote and illustrated dozens of books in the 1960s.  She was born in California in 1924, and attended South Pasadena High School. During the war, her entire family was relocated to the infamous Manzanar.  After the war, the family moved to Chicago where she settled and wrote most of her childrens books.

Dance, Dance, Amy-Chan by Lucy Ozone Hawkinson

Lucy Ozone Hawkinson's books are no longer in print. I know about her through my friend Ruby's mom who is the daughter of Ms. Ozone. What's interesting about Ms. Ozone's children's books is that they show kids of all ethnicities, sizes, and other differences which was pretty unusual for that time period. Dance, Dance, Amy-Chan is an especially charming illustrated book about two Japanese American girls getting ready for their local Obon Festival. Amy Chan almost missed the dance because little sister Susie Chan disappeared in the crowd when she got scared of the drums. The drawings in the book are brush paintings in color and in black and white. The colors are very cheerful and friendly, and even the black and white drawings are cute, with a lot of details on the kimonos, hair, accessories, and toy dolls.

Although this book cannot be found in stores anymore, you will be able to find it in local libraries, or a used one online. 


West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple
2003 Corinth Avenue
West Los Angeles, CA 90025 

If you don't live in West LA, many other Buddhist Temples are also holding an Obon festival during the summer.

You can find different Obon festival information here.

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