Japanese legend has it that a monk named Mogallana rescued his mother from the depths of hell after he took the Buddha's advice to share his wealth with others.
On that fateful day in 538, the first obon festival was born as Mogallana, overcome with joy, clapped and danced in a circle with other Buddhist disciples.
The spirit of Mogallana was alive and well this weekend at the annual Obon Festival, held since 1963 at the San Fernando Valley Community Center in Pacoima. The festival, which blended Japanese tradition with an American-style carnival atmosphere, is an occasion for Japanese Buddhists to remember and celebrate their ancestors, said Maria Itaya, a member of the San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, which organized the festival.
One of the American touches was the casual dress, encouraged by soaring temperatures Sunday. Some of the folk dancers wore shorts and T-shirts instead of the traditional kimonos worn by women, and the yukata robes and happi coats, the ancient dress of Japanese men.