Volunteering at Obon
Being involved in community activities is a great way to socialize and stay genki! Karen Escano of Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (one of Keiro’s Nikkei Senior Network member organizations) talks about her volunteer experience at this year’s obon carnival.
On July 9 and 10, the members of the Los Angeles Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple held their annual Obon Carnival. It was the culmination of months of planning and preparation. To be a part of Nishi’s Obon celebration is something one has to experience to appreciate. While remembering our loved ones who have sadly passed away, side-by-side with friends and family, there is a sense of “oneness” as everyone works together. It has been reported that during our Obon carnival, there are at least 200 people hard at work. Whether they are in a booth, the kitchen, directing cars in our parking lot, or making sure we have toilet paper in our bathrooms, the efforts are endless. Everyone simply wants to do what they can to make it easier and more enjoyable for others. The contributions of Nishi members are numerous, and whether it be in the form of the delicious osushi made by the Fujinkai women, whose members range in ages 50 to 90 years, to the sweet song and dance performed by the Nishi Development Center children, who are between the ages of 2 and 5, the sense of pride and selflessness are evident.
This year, as in years past, we were fortunate to have thousands in attendance. Guests were able to enjoy a variety of food and drink items, (the boba and dango were amazing!), games, cultural exhibits and demonstrations as well as entertainment. This year, our guest MC was Mr. Rodney Kageyama. We were thrilled that he was able to join us in welcoming The San Fernando Hongwanji Buddhist Temple Choir, The Taiko Project, Kotobuki no Kai, LA Matsuri Daiko, and Matsutoyo Kai, to name a few, during our entertainment segment. Our objective in providing entertainment at our Obon carnival is two-fold; one, to provide a lighthearted atmosphere for our guests and two, to provide our hardworking members a slight distraction from their efforts. We are always humbled and very grateful to the talented performers who donate their time to be with us.
We hope that if you were able to join us this year that you had a memorable time, and if you were not, please plan to do so next year. The energy that our members put forth in celebration of Obon each year is truly amazing.
As a side note, when I was approached (begged) to write this article, my immediate response was “okay,” not knowing until hours later that it would require more brain power than I might actually have, and that I was probably not very qualified to do so. However, having said that, I am glad that I was asked as it has given me an opportunity to reflect on the significance of Obon and the ability to express how meaningful it is to be a part of something so very special.
Karen is a member of the Board of Directors for Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. She has served as past president of both the Adult Buddhist Association (ABA) and the Dharma School Parents for the Temple. For the past four years she has served as co-chair of the Obon Entertainment Committee.
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