Shinsho Mugen Daiko perform at the Monterey Bay 73rd Obon Festival in Seaside. 

Seaside’s 73rd annual Obon Festival—a centuries old Japanese festival to honor the dead—was an awesome amalgam of community, culture and food. Parking was scarce around the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple, but that didn’t stop the community from coming out in droves, an estimated 3,000 or more throughout the day.

You could smell the sweet, tangy hint of teriyaki through the neighborhood as you made your way closer to the festival. A beautiful garden welcomed attendees as the entered the Temple, on the other side a maze of culture awaiting.

The lines were long for everything from beer to food. The food—tempura, gyoza, udon and chicken teriyaki—was satisfactory for a festival, but one might be better off going to an actual Japanese restaurant for a slightly more high-quality culinary experience.

The true beauty of the Obon Festival is a wonderful show of Japanese culture that wows the local crowd throughout the day, keeping them entertained as they sample the flavors of Japan.

“For me it was the coming together of the Japanese American from a lot of walks of life,” said volunteer Chris Hasegawa, “many of us who have little to do with the Buddhist church, to showcase parts of our Japanese-American culture and honor our ancestors.”

Hasegawa was there as a volunteer but also as a spectator watching his wife and daughter perform Taiko drumming. A loud and intense spectacle, the Taiko performance at the festival garnered a massive crowd. The percussive rhythms echoed through the neighborhood as the group—made up mostly of women—pounded and chanted through the afternoon.

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From the tempura to the taiko to jiu-jitsu, the masses were entertained and fed...that is until most of the food ran out around 3:30pm, an hour and a half before the scheduled 5 o’clock end. Each stand had sold out of their most popular items, leaving anyone wanting more the option of vanilla ice cream or a vegetable skewer. 

Overall the festival was a wonderful gathering of community to celebrate a culture that is so pivotal on the Central Coast and Salinas Valley.

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Writer from Seaside interested in the outdoors, ocean sports, photography and the arts.

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