Super Seniors – Obon Memories

The Mountain View Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival and Bazaar have been enjoyable annual events, but COVID has diminished the size over the past few years.  This month our Super Seniors share their memories and thoughts from past Obon Festival and Bazaar


 By Ricky Chu

Over the years, Mountain View Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival and Bazaar has been truly an enjoyable event for our entire community.  This year we are in for a special treat as for the first time any of us can remember, the 2022 Obon Festival and Bazaar will be for Temple members only. 

This month our Super Seniors share their memories and thoughts from past Obon Festival and Bazaar celebrations.

Milton Hamasaki, a former Bazaar Chairman recalls, “I started off making hot dogs which then evolved in to Corn Dogs with Muneo Masaki with the YABA/ABA group.  After many eventful years working the Corn Dog booth, I volunteered to be in charge of setting up and monitoring the Cultural Displays in the YBA Hall.  I was fortunate to have passed this on to Peter Matsumoto, who has done a fantastic job with the displays.  Every year, it seems lots of people enjoy coming to the Bazaar and we enjoyed it also as a family.  I recall always taking one week of vacation from work to help and work at the Bazaar.”

Aiko Sugimoto-Miyamoto remembers, “For me the Obon/Bazaar goes back many years when I used to live in Mountain View.  One year, Amy Imai asked if I would instruct dancing because I was the only one going to San Jose learning, in the early 50s.  Mountain View was a small-town learning and growing.

“I enjoyed being a part of the Bazaar.  Between running the ABA and Dharma School booths as chairperson, there were often times I was too busy to dance in the Odori!  Today, I am so privileged to be a part of the Odori as a dancing instructor. I am truly proud to say I belong to the Mountain View Buddhist Temple.”

Chuck Uyeda fondly remembers, “The bookstore at our Annual Obon Festival has been closed for a few years even before the current pandemic.  At one time, it was a popular activity at our Obon and was a very busy time for my wife, Sumi, who ran it with our family and friends for many years.  Each year it involved trips to San Francisco’s Kinokuniya and BCA bookstores and later to the BCA bookstore in Berkeley only.  Initial trips were made to select and pick-up books to be sold.  During the Obon weekend the books were laid out on tables in the foyer of Sangha Hall.  It was always great to see the interest shown by our membership and many visitors.  Kinokuniya book sales were highly varied and included travel, Japanese culture, crafts, cooking, and even children’s games and origami packets.  Despite its popularity Kinokinoya decided to cease our perennial agreement several years ago.  BCA books were primarily religious, but included Ojuzu and other items including cookbooks from different temples.  Our Obon bookstore was eventually closed as recommended because the sales of BCA items diminished to the extent that proceeds were too low to continue.”

Diane Shinta Durst says, “Having grown up at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple in the 1950s and 60s, I recall Obon as a festive fun time filled with experiences that I still hold as precious.  In the week preceding the Obon Bazaar, my family’s home kitchen would be filled the aroma of Obaachan’s an for making yaki manju that would be sold during the Bazaar.  Bachan Shinta’s manju had a reputation for being very tasty.

“During odori practice time, I would be taken shopping by Grandma Kawahara to Nichi Bei Bussan Department Store in San Jose’s Japantown to make sure that my yukata had all the right ties for the obi, new tabi for zori, new folding fan and kachikachi.  On the day of the odori, she would come to our house and dress me.  She made sure that the yukata was on perfectly.  I can hear today the sound of Obaachan and her friends sitting around odori circle saying “Kirei desu neh.”

“Finally, the taste the kushiyaki ”meat on a stick” that I ate at the Bazaar after dancing was so good.  At the end of the day, there was just enough time to get in a few BINGO games sitting with my Sunday School friends before Mom picked me up.  Sugoi!”

Edna Nakano (Yoshino) remembers, “I always enjoyed the dancing practice, more than the actual Obon itself. I  really enjoyed all the wonderful food especially the corn, inari, and ohagi, of course, that was not good for my diabetes!”

Richard and Eileen Fujikawa recall fondly many memories, “40+ years ago, when we first became MVBT members, the first job Richard was assigned was Obon Dance Chairman.  Little did he know that this would be his lifetime job.  Marilyn Ozawa, Sanjyo Kanyoshi, was teaching the dancers and leading the Bon Odori.  It was a great pleasure to see the increase in the number of people dancing every year.  Marilyn has kept the dance program steady, so it’s easier for more people to participate even with no practices.  In the pre-COVID Obon, dancers overfilled the dance area and often were bumping into each other.  In response to requests for more Obon dancing, Brent Izutsu started a ‘Maui Style Obon Dancing’ on Saturday night.  It is more casual with recorded music and simple attire.  Richard is hoping to retire from this fun job before he messes up anything and hopes he will finally have time to learn how to dance at the Odori.”

When their daughter Wendy started Obon dance practice 40+ years ago, Eileen joined the practices because it was fun and great exercise.  For the Obon dance, she could handle dressing her daughter in her yukata, but needed help with her own yukata.  For many years, her mother, Mrs. Shishido, helped her as well as everyone else that needed help.  May Shimoguchi was in charge of dressing helpers, but her helpers were few, so Eileen started to work with her mother and learned some basics of yukata dressing.  Eventually May and Mrs. Shisido could no longer work and Eileen had to keep the tradition going.  Never having been trained formally, all she could do was rely on her memories and intuition.  Her biggest fear was that a dancer’s yukata or obi may loosen and fall down.  She joined the Odori dance but kept her eyes on all the ladies she helped dress.  Now her granddaughters and her friend’s granddaughters are wearing yukatas.  Eileen is hoping to retire from her job when Richard retires.

Eileen also has fond Obon memories about the food and all the wise and experienced BWA ladies who taught everyone how to cook the favorite foods — rolling and stuffing the sushi, rolling the perfect ohagi, making the teriyaki beef and chicken, cooking udon noodles, etc.  The expert BWA cooks solidified the reputation of MVBT Obon food as the best.

Eileen and Richard thank all the people who trained them in everything about the Obon celebration.  They hope that ‘their children and grandchildren will learn from the “oldies” and keep the traditions alive.

Mel Inouye says, “It may seem strange, but being a part of the Bazaar construction crew for 40 plus years was actually very rewarding, especially being involved in creating new generations of booths and upgrading our procedures to reduce the construction preparation from two weeks down to four days.  Bazaar is always a great time to see people that we may not otherwise see, and especially to remember all of our ancestors who are no longer with us.”

The Super Seniors Committee hopes to see everyone out in July where we can enjoy catching up with old friends and hopefully meeting new ones as well. 

Namo Amida Butsu

With Kindness and Gratitude beyond words.

The Mountain View Buddhist Temple has 13 families that have lost a loved one since the 2021 Hatsubon Service.  To remember those who have passed away before us, the Temple has the Hatsubon Service.  All of the Hatsubon loved ones have and will continue to influence our lives and the future of the Mountain View Buddhist Temple.