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50+ Years in the Dance Circle: Annie Tanimoto of Lodi

Editor’s note: “50+ Years in the Dance Circle” will pay tribute to the extraordinary dance instructors who taught Bon Odori at BCA temples for 50 or more years. This series continues with a tribute to Annie Tanimoto.


Annie Tanimoto studied Japanese classical dance with Jutei Hanayagi, earned her professional dance name, and taught Bon Odori in Lodi, California, for nearly seven decades. 


Akiko Ann (“Annie”) Tanimoto was born in Lodi in 1934, the eighth of nine children of Morio and Kiku Tanimoto. Her father worked as a grape picker and farmer and eventually became the manager of a vineyard before World War II. The Issei couple also made Japanese staples such as tofu and konyaku, which were transported and sold by Annie’s older siblings while she rode in the delivery cart. 


During World War II, the Tanimoto family was incarcerated at the Rohwer concentration camp in Arkansas. Soon after their return to Lodi, Annie began taking Japanese classical dance lessons with Jutei Hanayagi of Stockton. She attended Victor Junior High School and graduated from Lodi High School in 1952. 


The Buddhist Church of Lodi held its first postwar Obon in 1948 with Bon Odori led by temple member James Kiriu. Annie assisted Kiriu in the early 1950s, became the lead instructor in the mid-1950s, and taught dances such as “Bussei Koshinkyoku,” “Gion Boogie,” “Nippon Ureshiya,” and “Tennen no Bi.” For many years, live Bon Odori music was provided by the Lodi Minyo Dokokai, Hokka Minyo Tanoshimi, and Sakura Minyo Doo Koo Kai from Sacramento.


Annie continued her lessons with Jutei Hanayagi, briefly studied classical dance in Tokyo, and received her professional dance name, Juteiaki Hanayagi, in 1965. After Jutei Hanayagi retired from teaching in Lodi, Annie opened and maintained a Japanese classical dance studio for several decades. In her professional life, she worked as a bookkeeper for the Hires Bottling Company in Stockton for four decades, retiring in 1999. 


Through nearly seven decades, Annie taught countless dances at the Buddhist Church of Lodi, from “Bon Odori Uta,” “Obon, Obon, It’s Festival Day,” “Shinran Odori,” and “Tanko Bushi” to “Akachan Ondo,” “America Ondo,” “Do-Re-Mi-Fa Ondo,” “Nippon Ondo,” “Showa Genroku Ondo,” and her own choreography for “Ginza Ondo.” 


The last in-person Obon festival at the Buddhist Church of Lodi was held in 2019. During this break, Annie decided to retire from teaching Bon Odori, but hopes to rejoin the dance circle at the temple’s next in-person Obon. 


To view a full list of 50+ teachers, follow the link: If you have an additional dance instructor for the BCA Music Committee to consider, please email Wynn at


Wynn Kiyama lives in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, with his family and is a member of the BCA and the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. He is currently working on a history of Bon Odori in the continental United States.



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