Reverend Yoshio Iwanaga, 1940’s • Courtesy photo

The summer Obon Festival is an eagerly anticipated event within Nikkei communities throughout North America. People come for the memorial observance, camaraderie, cultural performances, and food, but perhaps the most iconic element of the Obon Festival occurs when participants gather in a circle for the bon odori (obon dancing).

Reverend Yoshio Iwanaga introduced this tradition to numerous Nikkei communities along the West Coast in the 1930’s, and now, his pioneering activities will be celebrated in an exhibit at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

American Obon will trace the development of bon odori in North America through archival photographs, audio, and rare video footage on loan from the Iwanaga family, dance scholar Linda Akiyama and Buddhist Churches of America.

In addition, the Obon tradition in Portland, Oregon will be highlighted with photographs from Oregon Nikkei Endowment’s Frank C. Hirahara Collection. Curated by Dr. Wynn Kiyama (Portland State University and Portland Taiko), this exhibit will be the first of its kind in North America.

An Obon dance rehearsal will be held at the Japanese American Historical Plaza, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Saturday, July 29, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Free and open to the public.

The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is located at 121 NW 2nd Ave., Portland, Oregon. The exhibit will be open from Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free to members of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

Updates on affiliated exhibit programs can be found on the organization’s website. For more information, call (503) 224-1458.

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