Braving the heat, thousands showed up at the Orange County Buddhist Temple Obon Festival in Anaheim over the weekend, taking in traditional Japanese games, food and drink.
A giant dance circle called the Bon Odori was just slow and rhythmic enough that beginners threw themselves into the fray. But the uninitiated who were brave enough generally didn't look good doing it--adding to the fun of the dance.
Fortunately, they could drown any lingering embarrassment in the ample choices of food, drink and gambling the festival offered. Pictures, where to find the next Obon festival and what to try there follow after the jump.
If you're willing to wait, the food options at the Obon Festival are cheap and tasty slices of Japanese-American culture.
For six bucks, I got a satisfying bowl of chicken teriyaki and a piece of spam musubi, which as it's name suggests, features a hearty slice of the ubiquitous meat sandwiched in between rice and a seaweed wrap. It's like trailer-park sushi--if there is such a thing--but it's still delicious.
For something a little more authentic, try the Udon soup. It's big, fat noodles are meant to be slurped loudly. If it's a little too hot for soup, Hawaiian shaved ice--with or without sweet, condensed milk or gratifying red beans--is the best option.
There's also plenty of games at these festivals for kids bored with dancing or adults who like the thrill of losing their money.
One of the most popular options for gambling is a game that's kind of like craps, but instead of dice and green felt, you throw a basketball onto a square filled with colored holes. Winning is almost as much fun as watching the circle of silent, intensely focused Asian dudes suddenly scream at the top of their lungs at an inanimate leather-bound ball.
Other local Buddhist churches will be holding their own Obon festivals if you missed OCBC this past weekend. The next festival is being held by the Higashi Honganji temple in Los Angeles on July 24-25 from noon to 9 p.m., and entrance is free.