Reverend Katsu Kusunoki and Carol Morita divide up noodle servings as preparations are under way for this weekend's Obon Festival at the Buddhist Church in Lodi Friday, June 24, 2016.
A table full of women at the Lodi Buddhist Church annex worked shredding several pounds of boiled chicken that will be used to make chicken salad on Friday morning. In another room, volunteers were cleaning and peeling shrimp for tempura. While preparations for this event happen throughout the year, the cooking began on Thursday as volunteers prepared teriyaki chicken and other food which will be offered during the Obon Bazaar this weekend.
People at the church and in the Japanese community in Lodi are united each year through a shared devotion to continuing tradition and spending time with one another.
The Obon Bazaar is an annual festival rooted in the Japanese tradition of the Obon, where relatives gather and remember their family members and ancestors.
In Japanese tradition, families hold memorial services the first year after the death, the third year and the seventh year, often continuing many years later.
“The Buddhist understanding is that those who died before us become Buddha, they become a part of all things. We cannot physically touch them or see them, but we’re still living together with them,” said Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki. Through Buddhist teachings, people are able to think about death but also cherish the moment right now and think of their own lives while thinking of their loved one’s lives, he said.
Usually the obon is observed by a visit to the cemetery for a special service. For Lodians that will take place on July 17 with the first part of the service at the Lodi Memorial Park and Cemetery at 8:30 a.m. and at Cherokee Memorial Park at 9 a.m.
During the festival, the Buddhist Church will offer entertainment that represents different aspects of traditional Japanese culture from musical performances to traditional dances and of course, the food.
Many of the recipes have been handed down over the years, but some are the personal recipes of current parishioners at the Buddhist Church.
Early this morning, before the Obon Bazaar goes into full swing, volunteers will be rolling fresh maki, inari and musubi (Spam) sushi rolls for the day. Throughout the weekend, volunteers will also be cooking, frying the tempura and putting the final touches to each dish to deliver to those who purchase meal tickets.
Volunteers often include family of parishioners who have moved to other areas such as the Bay Area and Los Angeles and Stockton who return to support the event and also reunite with old friends.
“The best part is seeing family and friends come back to help. Even though the congregation is getting older, people are bringing their family along,” said Judy Waters, an executive board member of the Lodi Buddhist Womens Association. “It doesn’t matter how busy they are, they seem to find their way back for Obon.”
Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.