Obon festival returns to San Jose after former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — Centuries of culture and tradition were on display Saturday at San Jose’s Obon Festival.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist tradition, dedicated to the memory and honor of the dead.

“We don’t do it a lot, so being able to do it once a year is really nice to get together with everyone and be able to celebrate,” Ashley MacDonald said.

Ashley MacDonald is a fourth generation Japanese American.

She dances at the festival every year, which has become a family tradition.

VIDEO: A small Japanese fire truck named ‘Kiri’ connects San Francisco and Japan

“We dance in remembrance of those who have passed away, friends and family. And we actually have a lantern here for our grandmother,” MacDonald said.

But this weekend’s festival isn’t just about remembering lost loved ones. It is also an opportunity to look back on recent events.

The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is one of the events that concern many people on Saturday.

Abe was Japan’s longest serving prime minister and one of the most influential since the end of World War II.

Gun-related deaths are extremely rare in Japan, and Abe’s murder sent shockwaves through the Japanese community, here in the Bay Area and around the world.

VIDEO: Shinzo Abe assassination: Former prime minister’s death raises security questions as Japan mourns

“I felt like it was impossible. I had never heard of such things in Japan,” said festival-goer Huaino Hung.

And while Obon is one of the highlights of South Bay’s Japanese community, its organizers say everyone is welcome.

Rediscovering the sense of community, after being the pandemic, separates us.

“We are very open. There are no requirements here. You don’t have to be Buddhist, you don’t have to be Japanese. Come down, enjoy the food, enjoy the dance,” said Michael Jones, of San Jose. Betsuin Buddhist Church.

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