Bon Odori and Gyoza Party: a memory with my grandmother

The summer when I was four, I was living with my grandmother for several weeks while my parents were busy attending my little brother’s major heart operation back home. Though my grandmother lived with my uncle’s family, most of the family members were school teachers and usually it was just me and my grandmother at home from the morning until my bedtime in the early evening.

I used to spend my day exploring different parts of the house, my grandmother’s vegetable garden, and a few old huts where my grandmother kept her farming tools, all the while carefully observing the day’s event around the house.

In the month of August, the community’s annual dance festival “Bon Odori” was hosted in the city centre, and my elder cousin took me there so that I could also join the dance. Along with other adults and local children, my cousin and I danced around the pop-up tower where the singer and the drummers played the music. At the festival, my cousin also bought me some hot food in a plastic container. I ate it while standing in the crowd and thought to myself how delicious it was.

That was the first big festival experience that I had ever had, and from that day on, Bon Odori became my obsession. I decided to host my own little “Bon Odori” festival at home.

Every evening, after dinner, I would ask my grandmother for some scrap paper and a pair of scissors and go to another room where I sat and crafted several mock gyoza (Japanese style grilled dumplings). Then I would put them in a plastic container and secure it with an elastic band just like the food I saw at the festival. When everything was ready, I went to call my grandmother.

“Grandma, Bon Odori is starting now! Come quick, come quick!”

My grandmother was usually attending some tasks in the kitchen, but upon hearing my voice, she would stop whatever she was doing and follow me to the room where my Bon Odori festival was happening.

In the centre of the room, there was a low table, and upon my signal, the two of us started dancing around it. My grandmother knew parts of the Bon Odori song, so she sang, and we danced to her singing. When the dancing was finally over, I would cheer both of us and pick up the plastic container of mock gyoza from the table.

“Since you danced so well, Grandma, you can have this food!”

“What a treat!” My grandmother never failed to express her surprise. “Thank you so much!”

Then I would go to bed, feeling happy and content that we had had such a wonderful festival evening.

My daily Bon Odori festival continued throughout that summer until when my parents came to pick me up and I went back to my life with my family.