Obon Festival Returns July 14 (Burke Connection)

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Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 7.25.15 PMObon Festival Returns July 14
The Fairfax Station Ekoji Buddhist Temple prepares to host its annual festival for everyone in the community.

The Ekoji Buddhist Temple off the Fairfax County Parkway in Fairfax Station will be hosting the only Obon festival in the Washington DC area July 14. Admission is free, and the temple invites all visitors, no matter their religion or culture, to celebrate the annual event.

“It’s a time to show your gratitude and respect to all those people who’ve passed away before us, because they made the world; we are the next generation,” said Reverend Nariaki Rajan Hayashi, who has been Ekoji’s minister for the past three years.

Because of the growing number of visitors per year, with last year’s attendance at 1,700, the Ekoji Temple plans to extend its hours for the festival. The temple and grounds will be open starting at 3 p.m. and will continue until 9 p.m.

“[The festival] just keeps growing and growing. . . . There’s people from DC who come, there’s people from all over who come for the festival,” said Vickey Churchman, the volunteer coordinator for the event. “There isn’t anybody else who does an Obon. . . . New Jersey’s the next place that does an Obon festival.”

The theme of this year’s festival is “Taste of Obon,” highlighting the various cuisines of Japan, such as Yakisoba and Chirashi sushi, as well as an international dessert table that showcases many cultures’ favorite desserts.

Guests can also shop amongst the vendors lined up in the temple parking lot selling different Japanese items. On the grass, children can compete in ring toss, coin drop, and yo-yo fishing games, while teenagers can play a golf-like challenge based off the Buddhists’ noble eightfold path, a set of guidelines the Buddha taught should be followed to live a fulfilled life.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, visitors can enjoy the Ekoji-based taiko ensemble, Nen Daiko. These Japanese drummers have performed throughout the Washington DC area since 1994, including for the spring Cherry Blossom Festival. While made up of different faiths and lifestyles, each member of the Nen Daiko have a common respect and passion for the Japanese taiko, a musical art that combines lively traditional drumming with choreography.

“When we attend cultural events in our community, we are stepping through a doorway. For a few hours, we can imagine new ways of being,” said Carla Brown in an essay to Ekoji after she attended her first Obon and eventually joined the Nen Daiko taiko ensemble.

The festival will also feature musical talent from a youth taiko group, a live Hawaiian performance from the Aloha Boys, and a simple Japanese dance called Bon Odori, in which festival goers are invited to participate.

At the end of the festival, guests are welcomed to purchase small candles to light and place throughout the temple’s Japanese garden to show gratitude toward friends and family who have passed away.

“I find it was just a wonderful thing to do just a little bit more to remember the people that I’ve cared about that have passed away,” said Churchman.

For more info about the festival, visit ekojiobonfestival.weebly.com, email ekoji.info@gmail.com or call 703-239-0500.

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