Obon in California is very, very different. It's not exactly the Punahou Carnival, but it's decidedly less introspective.
I've been attending the Mountain View and sometimes San Jose Obon for years now. I've also been conscripted (for the rest of my life) to help prepare various things for Mountain View's Obon. The preparations always amaze me.
In a week, the Mountain View Buddhist Temple is transformed into a carnival-like midway--complete with food and game booths, and fully staffed for two days. And it is an entirely volunteer-driven, manual-labor intensive affair. There is no automation, with the very young through the not-very-young-at-all helping to do something.
This used to vex the Silicon Valley consultant in me. Where were the process improvements, what are the best margins for food items, and why are the booths re-constructed every year using the original lumber and rickety electrical cords from the years before??
I finally figured out that the whole gestalt of Obon is about community--ohana in a larger sense. I was framing it as a corporate event, but it's really a potluck for the community. As if all our collective aunties and uncles decided to hold a big family reunion to cook and entertain for us.
That's what Obon is. The food is Japanese American home cooking and the vibe is like going to a friend's house. Now go see it for yourself this weekend in Mountain View.
Eat Well. Be Well.