Teen Leads OCBC’s Obon at Home as Tribute to Dad

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By Jon Kawamoto


Wheel of Dharma

Katie Ikemoto’s idea for the Orange County Buddhist Church’s Obon at

Home stemmed from the family’s old Obon tapes.

“We got to laugh at our young selves winging the moves and seeing my

youngest sister running around,” said Katie, 17, a student at Yorba Linda

High School. Katie, her mother, Teiko, and her two sisters shared laughs

and good memories in watching the tapes — dating back to when Katie

was in the second grade.

But there was clearly another, bigger inspiration in Katie’s mind — her

father, Klete Ikemoto, who passed away April 2 of COVID-19 at the age of

52. Klete’s larger-than-life personality and his devotion as a “Girl Dad” was

a key reason that the OCBC Obon at Home was created.

“To not have Obon this year, after 17 years of going, did not feel right,

especially with my dad passing,” she said. “So, after watching these videos,

I got inspired to do something similar to what we had just felt, but through

videos that could instruct people how to have Obon fun at home.”

Katie pitched the OCBC Obon at Home idea to the OCBC Jr. YBA cabinet

— and enthusiastic members responded by agreeing to volunteer to help

plan and organize it. In all, about 20 Jr. YBA members got involved. She

also talked with the OCBC Obon Committee for feedback and approval.

Katie utilized Google, Zoom, texts, and emails to carry out her plans —

mindful of the need for safety and social distancing. She sent out a Google

sheet with various foods — like the OCBC’s signature dango — and

activities she considered “an essential part of my Obon experience and our

members signed up for the ones that they felt were their favorites.”

Jr. YBA members had about a week to film and edit their videos. And other

members “went above and beyond and volunteered to create our

thumbnails, emcee or edit a few extra videos,” Katie said.

“I could definitely feel the whole Sangha come together for this Obon,”

Katie said. “So many members volunteered to film and/or edit a video and

that overwhelming support and diligence just revealed how special this

Obon is to all of us.

“The OCBC Obon Committee and board was asking me if I needed

anything and truly helped to spread the word across OCBC and the JA

community,” she continued. “Our Jr. YBA advisers, especially Carol

Sakamoto, knew how important this was to our Sangha and especially me.”

In all, there were 22 videos created for the OCBC Obon at Home, which

was held from July 17-25. Once the videos were shown on the OCBC

Facebook page and on YouTube, the response was overwhelming.

“My mom showed me pictures of an OCBC basketball team making fans

together over Zoom, children making dango for their family, families

decorating their house and playing games together,” Katie said. “Seeing so

many families cherishing time together is so rewarding to me.”

There have been nearly 20,000 views of all the videos and, of course, the

food videos have proven to be the most popular.

“I was surprised that it reached many non-Buddhist JA organizations that

often attend and participate in Obon,” Katie recalled. “Even within my own

Yonsei Basketball Team, there was tremendous support and

encouragement for the video series.”

OCBC Rev. Jon Turner praised the efforts of Katie and the Jr. YBA.

“The Obon at Home event at OCBC was a joy,” Rev. Turner said. “It was so