Marine Corps Community Services officials on Saturday will revive the Iwakuni Obon Festival and Culture Day, which used to be an annual tradition at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.

“I’ve been here about 10 years, and up until five years ago, we always had the Obon festival,” said Alex Perkins, MCCS special events coordinator. “So this year, we are really striving to refurbish the event and get it back up to speed.

“It’s actually a very good event that brings people together. It emphasizes aspects of both cultures. We’re expecting well over 600 people, and we’d like to see the whole base attend,” Perkins added.

The Iwakuni Obon Festival and Culture Day is free and open to the entire base community, including workers, families and guests of Indirect Hiring Agreement, Master Labor Contract and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force employees.

Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating ancestors. Each year during Obon, Buddhists believe, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world to visit relatives. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas to guide spirits back into their world.

The Iwakuni festival, which begins at 2 p.m. with a sake barrel breaking on the main parade field, will be filled with Japanese activities and demonstrations, culminating with the spiritual and colorful Obon Dance. Later in the afternoon, attendees can witness a tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangements) displays in the Building One Auditorium lobby.

Inside the auditorium until 5 p.m., there will be dance demonstrations, calligraphy, aikido (way of harmony), taisho goto (a type of writing), kimonos, singing, kendo (fencing) and koto (Japanese harp). Activities including origami (paper folding), bamboo dragonfly and calligraphy will be available outside on the parade field.

A 30-foot Iwakuni white snake supported by 15 local dancers moving in unison around the parade field begins the slate of evening festivities.

At 6 p.m., another sake barrel-breaking ceremony takes place as a prelude to performances by Iwakuni Taiko Drummers, Kuga Daiko Drummers and the Iwakuni Obon dancers. The 125 dancers and drummers perform from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. under the light of hundreds of red lanterns strung across the field. Dance instructors also will be on hand to teach.

Popular and traditional Japanese music constantly will play during the festival, Perkins said. Also, participants can purchase yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), yakiniku (fried meat dish), ika (squid), udon (noodles) and various beverages.

“Events like this help to educate Marines, sailors and their families about the local culture, which helps to bridge the gap between the Japanese community and the community the servicemembers live in,” said John Pace, MCCS special events and entertainment manager.

“We think Obon is just an excellent opportunity for this type of event,” he added.

Along with Iwakuni’s MCCS, NTT is a sponsor and will provide glowing uchiwa fans to help people stay cool.

Call MCCS Productions at DSN 253-3727 for more information.

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