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Cortez community prepares for annual Obon Festival
Obon festival
The Cortez Obon Festival features traditional Japanese summer attire and dancing. The festival is free and open to the public. It will be held starting at 7 p.m. July 4 at the Cortez Hall. - photo by Journal file photo

For the past several decades the Cortez Buddhist Church and surrounding community has come together for the Obon Festival, a Japanese homecoming traditionally regarded as a time to visit one’s hometown and give homage to ancestors.

The Obon Festival is not unique to Cortez, however, as it is celebrated in Japan and Japanese American communities across the United States. The origins of Obon are from the Buddhist legend of Mogallana, one of the Buddha’s disciples, rejoicing when his mother’s soul was redeemed from the realm of hungry ghosts. While many Buddhist churches and temples in America celebrate Obon through major fundraisers in the form of bazaars with ethnic food, games and cultural displays, in Cortez the celebration is mainly joyous dancing.

Children don traditional summer wear called yukata, while adults wear hapi coats over their street clothes. The dancing is traditional and simple, and attendees are encouraged to join in.

“This is a great homecoming event for the people in the community,” said Cortez Buddhist Church representative Chris Kubo. “It gives the opportunity for people to reconnect with their families and community and people also come from out of town that have connections to the community.”

The Annual Cortez Obon Festival is free and open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. July 4 in the parking lot between Cortez Hall and Cortez Buddhist Church on Cortez Avenue, between Santa Fe Drive and Linwood Avenue, southeast of Turlock.

In its annual appearance at Cortez Obon, Ballico Taiko, a drum group from Ballico-Cressey Elementary School District will start the celebration at 7 p.m. Dancing will start around 7:30 p.m. with musical accompaniment by the Cortez Karaoke Singers. During intermission, attendees will enjoy another taiko performance by Stockton Bukkyo Taiko and soft drinks and cookies will be available.