Bon Odori Festival brings a taste of Japanese culture to Charlotte this weekend

Categories: ASC, Blog

By Tiffany Du, Public Relations and Communications Intern

The Wells Fargo Atrium will be filled this Saturday with the sounds of thunderous drumming and the faint smells of traditional Japanese cuisine.

Hosted by the Japanese Association of Charlotte (JAC) and the Japanese Language School of Charlotte, the 27th Annual Bon Odori Festival is a one day event that will bring Japanese arts, music and performances to Uptown Charlotte.

The Arts & Science Council (ASC) has awarded cultural project grants to the JAC in past for the Bon Odori Festival. This year, ASC awarded a grant of $3,850 to the JAC to support the traditional drumming performance at the festival.

The festival is well-known for its drum performance by the Matsuriza, a taiko drum group that regularly performs at Disney World’s Epcot in Orlando, Fla.  The drummers use great force to strike the drums with hard wooden sticks to produce a booming sound that can be heard from a distance. The talented drum group synchronizes their movements to create a unique rhythm and showcase a ritual commonly used in Japanese history during wartime.

The free festival allows all members of the community a chance to experience a traditional Obon, the Japanese Summer Ancestor Festival. In Japan, the Obon is an anticipated event in the summer when everyone returns to their hometown to honor the spirits of their ancestors. The Bon Odori or “Obon Dance” is the main focus of the festival which is similar to American line dancing. The main goal of the festival is to enhance people’s understanding of Japanese culture by inviting them to share in the celebration of a traditional Japanese custom.

“The Bon Odori Festival is a wonderful example of a successful, multi year, sustainable project that celebrates the diversity we have in Mecklenburg County,” said Ben Kubie, ASC’s program director, community.

Last year’s festival attracted about 4,500 participants and featured two new programs: Kendo, Japanese swordsmanship and Japanese song performances. In addition to two new programs, last year’s festival also included the Obon dance, tea ceremony, calligraphy, origami, dressing of the kimono and Japanese food tasting. Participants were able to actively participate in dances and join in on traditional performances such as the tea ceremony, fulfilling the goal of the festival to instill a sense of Japanese culture in the community.

Check out the Bon Odori Festival by visiting