Japan Nite Obon Festival returns to Ontario

The Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple brings back its annual Japan Nite Obon Festival for the 74th time at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario on Saturday, July 15.

The event will start at 5 p.m. with a food service catered by Matsy’s, followed by a performance by prominent Japanese drumming band Sangha Taiko, a presentation by park ranger Emily Teraoka with the National Park Service, and traditional Obon dancing.

The event is free and open to the public and people are encouraged to come early and enjoy the other exhibits at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, such as the Dinosaurs in Motion exhibit and the art galleries.

The festival is part of several events organized by the temple to celebrate the traditional Buddhist Obon season, during which people honor and celebrate their ancestors. During the festival, people can hang paper lanterns to guide the spirits of ancestors as they return to visit their living relatives.

“In Buddhism, remembering the past is a big deal, remembering our parents, our grandparents, and all those who came before us, because in the Buddhist view, we didn’t get here by ourselves,” said Mike Iseri, co-president of the temple.

But this remembrance is not meant to be sad, Iseri said, but is instead a “festival of joy.”

The Buddhist temple is organizing several other public events during the Obon season including a Hatsubon service on July 23 at the temple and cemetery visitations all around Treasure Valley from July 26 to July 30.

Hatsubon is the first service that commemorates those who died since last year. This service, as well as all of the temple’s services, are open to all and will be broadcast online.

The Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple follows the Jodo Shinshu tradition, which Iseri describes as “everyday person’s Buddhism.”

“Japanese influence in this community has been significant and goes back to the 1920s,” he said. “This public event showcases pieces of Buddhism and Japanese culture and is probably our most important means of outreach.”