Obon Dancing in America: Reverend Yoshio Iwanaga Photo Album
United States, 1930-31
Reverend Iwanaga demonstrated his pedagogical program at the Pan-Pacific Young Men’s Buddhist Association conference in Hawaii in 1930, and Reverend Tansai Terakawa invited the young minister to teach dance to Nisei (second-generation) Japanese American girls in California. Iwanaga applied for a visa and traveled directly to Stockton, where he began working with Helen Chizuko Okamoto, a Nisei pianist and organist who accompanied his dance classes. He taught doyo buyo to students in Central California, San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. According to interviews conducted in the 1980s, the first obon festival with bon odori in North America occurred at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco in 1931, following the instruction of Reverend Iwanaga.
Delegates at the Pan-Pacific Young Men’s Buddhist Association Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, 21 July 1930 (Rev. Tansai Terakawa, bottom photo, second row from bottom, fifth from left; Rev. Yoshio Iwanaga, top right photo, third row from bottom, fourth from left).
Iwanaga (far right) and doyo buyo students in San Jose, California, 4 April 1931. Photo by Nakashima Photo Studio.
Iwanaga (back row, left side) and doyo buyo students at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, 24 June 1931.