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Valentina Stuliy and Lateef Allen-McDowell, both of San Mateo, exhibit a kote nuki technique from Shorinji Kempo martial arts during the 68th annual Monterey Peninsula Obon Festival in Seaside on Sunday. (Reg Regalado -- Monterey Herald correspondent)

Correction: Lateef Allen-McDowell's name was incorrectly spelled in an earlier version of a photo caption on this story. Also, the martial art technique being performed was misidentified.

SEASIDE >> A celebration of life through art attracted hundreds Sunday to the 68th annual Monterey Peninsula Obon Festival, an all-day exhibition of multiple facets of Japanese culture, from sushi and sake to martial arts, music, dancing, horticulture and, of course, tea.

The popular event was a fundraiser for the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple, which hosted the festival.

The Obon tradition dates back 2,600 years, said the Rev. Jay Shinseki, resident minister at the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple.

"All of our lives today are the result of all of our ancestors — those thousands and millions of people who came before us and made sacrifices to that we can live the life we live," Shinseki said. "To remember them, we come together each summer to celebrate this life. Celebrating life means listening to the music. It means to dance, to eat, to drink, to simply enjoy life."

The minister gave a seminar later in the day titled "Introduction to Buddhism."

The seven-hour party opened with the rhythmic thunder of the Shinsho Mugen Daiko Taiko Drummers, who performed two traditional numbers for an appreciative crowd before yielding the stage to Shorinji Kempo, the first of several martial arts demonstrations of the day. Aikido of Monterey, Seibukan Jujitsu and Salinas Kendo Dojo also showed their skills. Classical Japanese dances were performed by Bando-Mitsuhiro Kai.


Next on the agenda was a lecture from the Monterey Bonsai Club about growing the popular Japanese trees.

"The passion for growing bonsai trees usually comes from the idea of trying to recapture nature in a very small space. A lot of us like to mimic nature as much as possible and really enjoy it," said club president Rich Guillen, a 30-year-veteran of bonsai growing, who teamed up for Sunday's demonstration with his teacher Katsumi Kinoshita, who has 60 years of experience.

"Growing bonsai trees isn't very difficult if you're starting with a young tree, like a one-gallon tree, and certain species like junipers really survive very well," he said. "And actually I think the biggest challenge for people is that they forget to water them. They're like a pet — you need to look at them and water them every day. People also tend to think, 'Oh, it's a miniature — I could take it indoors.' They forget it's a tree and has to have all of the natural elements of being outdoors, like its larger brother or sister."

Guillen said any climate is good for bonsai, but it's important to select a species common to the area.

Cuisine included beef teriyaki, beer and sake, pastries, ice cream, kushikatsu (pork kebabs), gluten-free okonomiyaki and miso salad, gyoza and edamame, Asian salad, sushi, tempura, udon and shaved ice.

Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were part of the events of the day, and complimentary tea was served throughout the festival.

"We enjoy everything about obon and obon festivals," said Deborah Tanaka, a 38-year-old Los Gatos resident who made the drive with her parents. "Our family has roots in Osaka, Japan. We still have relatives there and go back to visit occasionally, but we don't get to go as often as we'd like, so this is a slice of that world for us every year."

Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio said the festival is "an extension and continuation of tradition, and a very beautiful expression of culture here in the city of Seaside.

"We find that very important to all of us as we understand each other, and the way we interact with other cultures," he said.

Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344