Japan Nite Obon Festival in Ontario, Oregon

by Douglas Manger, contracted folklorist

More results from our ongoing Survey of Oregon’s Southern counties!Ontario, Oregon has an unusually high concentration of Japanese-Americans. During WWII, some of the Japanese and Japanese Americans placed in the internment camps were released to work the agricultural harvests. That’s how many came to the Ontario area. Key Ontario leaders welcomed them, and many elected to stay.

Ontario is home to the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple, at one time the second largest Buddhist temple in the Northwest. On June 29th of 2013, the temple held its 67th annual Japan Nite Obon Festival, a celebration of culture, sharing, and understanding. The event features traditional Japanese food, (Obari) folk dance, music, and dress. Madame Kanriye Fujima, now retired, taught traditional Japanese art forms in Ontario for many years. She has been an integral part of the Obon Festival since its beginnings. Sangha Taiko, a Japanese American drum ensemble sponsored by the temple, performs each year at the festival. Resident minister Reverend Joshin Dennis Fujimoto and Michelle Sadamori are lead members of the group. Janet Komoto heads Kawa Taiko, Ontario’s other Japanese drum ensemble. Komoto is of Chinese descent. She has been active with the Kawa Taiko group for over a decade.

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