click on link for more: Chicago is the World » The Obon DanceWe went to the Obon Dance at the Puna Hongwanji tonight. I love first walking up to the temple grounds, totally transformed by the strings of lanterns glowing in the night, the tall yagura platform calling everyone’s attention to the circle.It is always great watching the elegant older ladies from the Japanese dance schools in their matching kimonos and perfectly coifed hair lead the way, their hands so graceful, their faces so calm. (Calm because they know that they know all the steps!) The little girls, of course, in their pink and red and Hello Kitty yukata with the big chiffon bows and their hair all full of flowers and curls are utterly meltingly adorable. The energy of the rambunctious Dharma School boys is infectious, with their matching Dharma School hapi coats and headbands, as they half dance half kung fu each other, the flashing red lights in their shoes syncopating their best moves. The YBA teens in tank tops and cut-off jeans move in packs, either gossiping and squealing by the food booths or running and jumping right into the middle of the circle, the boys energetically showing off for the girls. The favorite dances are obvious, the crowd surges when those start, everyone shouting chorus and response.After all these years, I finally get to dance this time, sort of, no more babies to babysit on the side, although Niu Niu and Hao Hao are just at that age, too embarrassed and too surly to do it just for me. Please? The bon odori is not a spectator sport, you really have to get in there and dance (after you have eaten of course, that is the other big part of it — tempura, teriyaki chicken, Spam musubi, cone sushi, shave ice, manju, mochi, corn on the cob, saimin — I always have to take a moment to peek in on the temple volunteers cooking madly in the kitchen, big clouds of mochiko billowing, the sounds of tempura hitting the oil … and inhale).