Obon festival in Mountain View, CA 2023

Dance in Joy, Honor the Dead, Obon Festival

Geta, Japanese sandals for sale at the bazaarObon is a Japanese festival honoring the dead. The Obon Festivals take place at a buddhist temple, in the summer months between June and August. This festival is usually the biggest event for the temple. Over a period of two or sometimes three days Japanese culture is celebrated with food, music, carnival games, bazaars, and often Ikebana exhibits. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangements.

Lanterns with names of deceasedThe center point of the festivities are the Bon Odori dances. These dances differ by region in Japan and are passed down by generations. Nonetheless, there are also new dances being developed. The Buddhist temples offer classes and videos to learn these dances. Everyone is welcome to join in.

As the sun sets and the festival lights begin to shine, we think of those who have passed on and celebrate the paths that brought us together in gratitude.” 

Buddhist church of America 

Ikebana The origins of Bon Odori are over 500 years old. It is believed that Mokuren, a disciple of Buddha saw his deceased mother and discovered she had fallen to the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering. Buddha advised him to make offerings to Buddhist monks at the end of the rainy season retreat. When Mokuren saw his mother’s spirit released he danced with joy and gratitude.

Bay Area Obons are from June to August and people travel to these festivals to honor friends and family.

Some upcoming events are:

Sat, Jul 29, 6:00 – 6:45 pm Diablo Japanese American Summer Festival, Concord

Sat, Aug 5, 4 pm Annual BCO Buddhist Church of Oakland Obon Festival

August 5th/6th Palo Alto Buddhist Temple Bazaar & Obon Odori Event

August 12, 2023 Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church 


I’m looking forward to attending the BCO Obon in Oakland on Saturday, August 5th, 2023.

Please dance with joy and gratitude!

Obon in Mountain View, CA 2023


Buddhist Churches of America


Obon Festival Guide: Meaning, traditions and dates

Obon Festival Guide: Meaning, traditions and dates

Bon (festival) Wikipedia


Entrance of the Edith Heath exhibit A Life in Clay at the OMCA

Experience Three Great Female Californian Artist, OMCA

Bring some time if you are going to the OMCA – the Oakland Museum of California, because this is really three museums, plus a special exhibit. You can easily spend a whole day here. More precisely, there is the California History Museum, the Science Museum, the Art Museum, and the special exhibit. 

I came to see Edith Heath: A life in clay. Edith Heath, ceramist, and, as I learned, alchemist, was a trailblazer in everyday stoneware and tile design. This exhibition combines her craft with a  documentation of her life story. You can enjoy this informative display until October 2022.

A mug by Edith Heath und a magnifying glass to see the texture

On the way to the Heath exhibit you’ll pass the ongoing exhibit, Dorethea Lange: Photography as Activism. The Oakland Museum owns Lange’s personal collection of more than 40,000 negatives and 6,000 prints. Lange, a photographer, is best known for her images of the Depression and a truthful depiction of the effect of World War II at home. Her images can be found in various parts of the museum.

Portrait of Dorethea Lange by Hung Liu

After viewing the photos of Dorethea Lange you pass a portrait of her painted by Hung Liu. This is the third exhibit: Remembering Hung Liu. Lui was an Oakland-based artist who passed away last year. Four of Lui’s works can be seen until October, 2022.

I wish I had more time to enjoy the museum’s 110,000 square feet of gallery space. I just quickly glanced at the new garden, where they have lunchtime sessions with dances, storytelling, and more, every Saturday in February and March.

Unfortunately, the special exhibition Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism ends February 27th.

Hella Feminist, celebrating the lesser-known stories of feminism in Oakland and the Bay Area will be the next special exhibition starting this summer.

Visitor Information
The terraced gardens at the OMCA

The Oakland Museum is located at 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA. Museum’s hours are Wednesday–Sunday 11 am–5 pm, with extended hours on Friday 5–9 pm. General admission is $16, seniors and students $11, Youth (13–17) are free through Feb. 27, Children (12 & under) free. There is a surcharge of $5 for the special exhibition.

Please check the web site for current COVID restrictions.

Have you been to the OMCA?

Coffee mug with cocohodo.

Treat Yourself to Something Sweet

Today my mother would’ve been 80. Being German she loved coffee and cake in the afternoon. I’ll definitely have a nice piece of cake and a strong coffee in her honor. In this post I picked five Bay Area bakeries with special treats I love. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses and have not received anything for posting this. (This is not to say I wouldn’t be open to a taste test.)

Pastelaria Adega – San Jose

Pastel de nata at Pastelaria.

One of my favorite sweets is pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry. Pastelaria Adega in San Jose does it right. You can watch them making the tart and stirring the custard in a large copper pot. Besides the traditional plain they also have fruit versions. If you are not interested in custard, maybe try some of their donuts, or savory items?

Wooden Table Baking Co – Oakland

A display of alfajores at the Wooden Table Cafe.

Alfajores – You had me at dulce de leche; put two shortbread cookies around and you get this Argentinian dessert. For an extra indulgence try them covered in chocolate! They also have many gluten-free options.

Cocohodo – Sunnyvale

Machine making cocohodo at Cocohodo in Sunnyvale.

Cocohodo is a traditional Korean pastry, shaped like a walnut, filled with bean paste and a chunk of walnut. If I still had a small child this would be my go-to place. You can watch the machine that makes the pastry right there, while also enjoying their great coffee.

Mini Taiyaki Cafe – Santa Clara

A taiyaki waffle shaped fish.

Another Korean favorite are taiyaki – fish shaped cakes filled with either custard, hazelnut spread, or red bean paste. They are freshly made and come in four fishes. The cafe is actually a hair salon and due to COVID restriction not a sit-down cafe. The taiyaki are fun when they are warm, but they don’t travel well.

  • Mini Taiyaki Cafe
  • 5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
  • Santa Clara, CA 95051

Rosalind Bakery – Pacifica

Croissants from Rosalind.

The artisan bread at Rosalind is amazing, but their croissants are what I crave. The almond one is filled with almond paste, topped with shaved almond, and the crunch is music to my ears.

Where do you go for sweet treats?

The entrance to the sensory garden.

Relish with all Senses – Sensory Garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt

Squirrel drinking out of a fountain at the Sensory Garden, Lake Merritt.

I did give you a little break before I write again of yet another garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt. You enter the Sensory Garden through a tile covered archway. It right away heightens your senses. You smell the mint and other herbs and notice all the colorful flowers. The whole garden is planted in raised beds that make it easy to touch the plants. The smoothed edged bricks are guidance for the visually impaired. The path meanders towards a shady seating area. We were delighted to watch a squirrel drink from the beautiful fountain. 

The former Herb and Fragrance Garden, established in 1978, got a makeover in 2004 through a collaboration of members of the Oakland East Bay Garden Center, the City’s Public Works Agency, and members of the Hillside Gardeners of Montclair. If you wish to help out and further experiment with your senses you are welcome to volunteer every third Saturday of the month in the morning.

Mint at the Sensory Garden.

The Sensory Garden is part of the Gardens of Lake Merritt at

666 Bellevue Ave, in Oakland, located near the South-West gate.

Which one is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Previous posts of the gardens were:

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

Suiseki bunny

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.

AirBeeNBee with blooming native California flowers.

Stop by the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt, Oakland.

There are a lot of different garden types at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. One structure stood out to us as we enjoyed the grounds: the AirBeeNBee. It is home for some of California’s 1600+ species of native nesting bees. 

Wooden hives and logs at the AirBeeNBee.

These bees don’t have a queen, or hives, or make honey. They are solitary and ground nesting. The AirBeeNBee was installed since many of the solitary bees usually nest in the ground. In this public garden the grounds are cleared, so this habitat was created with varied sized holes for different sizes of bees. They enjoy the flowers of the gardens, especially the Native Bee Pollinator Garden. Here flowers are planted for an all year long bloom since California native bees hatch year round.

Bees are not the only residents. Nearby is the dragonfly habitat and the monarch butterfly garden.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are divided into 17 specialty gardens. I will highlight more of the gardens in later posts. 

The Gardens at Lake Merritt are located at 666 Bellevue Ave in Oakland. 

COVID open hours are Mondays to Fridays 7:30am – 3 pm, weekends 8 am – 4pm.

The Bee Hotel is near the South-West gate of the Gardens. 

Admission is free.

Have you been to the Gardens at Lake Merritt?

If you enjoy insectaries you should check out Foraging Island at Byxbee Park in Palo Alto. An ecological sculpture to invite insects and rodents to live there.

Two women hugging each other. Rise in Solidarity.

Declare Solidarity in Oakland’s Chinatown

I came to Oakland’s Chinatown to see the Moments of Expressions exhibit by Peter Gee at the Oakland Asian Culture Center. From May 1st to June 20th, 2021 the OACC is showing a window and gallery exhibit. To see the inside gallery you have to schedule an appointment on their website, no walk-ins are possible.

Sign for Peter Gee's exhibit Moment of Expressions.

I wasn’t sure what time I would be able to go over. Therefore I decided early to skip the inhouse option and just see the window display. The OACC is located in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza nestled between Franklin and Webster and 11th and 9th. I walked up the stairs to the OACC and saw a collection of the pictures in one window. I wandered around to see if there were more displays, but if there were I missed them. 

Murals in Oakland's Chinatown

Going down the escalator opposite the Center I noticed the murals. These paintings are hiding the fact that a lot of businesses boarded up their stores. With an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans many businesses took extra precaution by boarding up their storefronts and shortening their hours. A lot of the paintings are expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, there are also thoughtful and funny images. 

Murals in Oakland's Chinatown.

Have you been to Oakland’s Chinatown?

If you like murals you might want to check out another of my posts: the 100 Murals project in San Jose.




Posters from Oree Originol honoring People of Color killed by law enforcement

Support Black Lives

“Please, I can’t breath.” It’s been a week of protest and anger. A wave has swept this nation. A powerful series of waves, like water will grind down the land. Now is the time to rise.

Justice for George Floyd an illustrations by Oree Originol

Protests are just the beginning. In order to change the systemic racism we have to be aware of privilege, come together, enable change, listen, and act. 

Here is a list of things that will help to make sure Black Lives Matter.

Action cards

The most creative approach to the question on what to do about racial injustice comes from the Oakland Museum of California with their Take Action cards. Check out their Instagram feed to see the cards (instagram.com/oaklandmuseumca). 

Donate money to the cause

Bail and legal support:

Flyer on how to support #BlackLivesMatter

The Minnesota Freedom Fund (https://mnfreedomfund.org/)

Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee Bail Fund (https://rally.org/ARCbailfund)

San Francisco National Lawyers Guild (NLG) (nlgsf.org/ways-to-contribute/)

NAACP (https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6857/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=15780&_ga=2.22006142.412847870.1591227461-53649289.1591227461)

ACLU (https://action.aclu.org/give/now)

Non-emergency support:

Black Lives Matter (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019)

East Oakland Collective (http://www.eastoaklandcollective.com/)

People’s Breakfast Oakland (https://linktr.ee/PBO)

Planting Justice (https://plantingjustice.org/)

Roots Clinic (https://rootsclinic.org/)

Restore Oakland (http://restoreoakland.org/)

Oakland Indie Alliances (http://www.oaklandindiealliance.com/repair)

Anti Police Terror Project (https://www.antipoliceterrorproject.org/)


Rock the Vote (https://www.rockthevote.org/get-involved/)

A list of actions against racism by the UN: Let’s fight racism (https://www.un.org/en/letsfightracism/)


President Obama weighted in lately on how important voting is (https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067) and to move a step further you can read the report and toolkit from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights developed by the Obama Foundation (https://www.obama.org/wp-content/uploads/Toolkit.pdf)

Black Future Lab (https://blackfutureslab.org/)

Track progress of legislations

Campaign Zero let’s you track the progress state legislations against police violence (https://www.joincampaignzero.org/#action)

Make a call

To contact your representative just got easier, just download the 5calls app (https://5calls.org/)

Sign Petitions

Poster from the 'Black Panthers at 50' exhibit at the OMCA: Unity is the Solution

Color of Change (https://act.colorofchange.org/signup/state-emergency-black-people-are-dying)

NAACP (http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6857/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=27063)

Join a group

Showing up for Racial Justice (https://www.surjbayarea.org/)

Educate yourself about racism

General reading list on how to be an antiracist, put together by the San Francisco library:


Truth be told is a podcast from KQED (https://www.kqed.org/podcasts/truthbetold).

Corrine Shutuck wrote a list of 75 things white people can do for racial justice (https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234)

Great resource list especially for kids from DC Area Educators for Social Justice (https://www.dcareaeducators4socialjustice.org/resources)

Buy from black businesses

BAOBOB is a directory listing for black owned businesses in the Bay Area (https://baobobdirectory.com/)

The Official Black Wall Street app lists black-owned businesses (https://obws.com/)

For black-owned restaurants download the EatOkra app (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/eatokra/id1175921760)

Black Nation app (https://www.blacknation.app/)

We Buy Black (https://webuyblack.com/)

Buy art that matters

The Tracy Piper has a vibrant print at the Voss Gallery. Proceeds go to Black Lives Matter (https://vossgallery.art/collections/the-tracy-piper/products/black-lives-matter)

Black Table Arts, a Minnesota based initiative to help community through art (http://www.blacktablearts.com/)

Kyle Harder donates proceeds from his print RISE! to Reclaim The Block (https://kyleharterart.bigcartel.com/product/rise)

How do you support black lives?





Bliss in the moment by James Moore on the Bay Trail, Palo Alto.

Take Advantage of your Bike

May is National Bike month. If I could name one thing that shelter-in-place has a positive impact on is the streets are emptier and therefore easier to ride a bike.

A lot of first time riders, with their parents are confident enough to ride on the streets these days. There are also multiple levels of bike trails around.

To spice things up you could challenge someone, friends or family, to an interesting goal. How about: Burn 6 tacos in a week? Or: Ride 100 miles in May. Record your trips and register with https://www.lovetoride.net/usa/signups/new, you even will have a chance to win attractive prizes, e.g. a new bike!

Suggestions on bike trails:

Bay Trail

Bay Trail near Palo Alto.

The San Francisco Bay Trail is a 500 miles walking and cycling path that spans all nine Bay Area counties. 

East Bay

The Bay Bridge Trail is a 4.4 mile round trip from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island over the Bay Bridge.


North Bay

Lime bike at South San Francisco.

The Paradise Loop is a more challenging ride, this 38 miles loop starts in Tiburon.



On Sundays, between 9 am and 3 pm, a 3.8 mile stretch on Cañada Road in Woodside is closed off for non-motorized activities.



Bike in Santa Cruz.

The Tennessee Valley might be closed right now. Please check before you go.


Do you have a favorite bike ride?

If you are taking a break sometimes you can find fun ways to look up your bike, for example in Los Altos.

Trees behind a fence

Go on a Virtual Nature Tour

Last week I gave you a collection of virtual art. This week, with John Muir’s birthday on April 21st and Earth Day April 22nd, it is natural to talk about nature in the Bay Area.

Screenshot of the Oakland Zoo grizzly bear cam.

If you are looking for animals the Oakland Zoo has some webcams for bears and elephants. On my latest visit I did not see any animals, but this might be a virtual hunt (https://www.oaklandzoo.org/webcams)? 

Screenshot of jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I was luckier at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the otters were frolicking around (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams/sea-otter-cam), the jelly cam mesmerized me with some minimalistic sounds and the slow movement of the jellyfish (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams/jelly-cam). 

If your love for animals is on a smaller scale, you can watch a few YouTube videos of insects by the Essig Museum of Entomology (https://essig.berkeley.edu/bugged/). 

To explore interesting articles by Bay Area Nature magazine (https://baynature.org/category/explore/) is always a great pastime.

How about a virtual garden tour? Bringing back the Natives Garden Tour (https://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/2020-virtual-tour) will zoom you to native gardens in the Bay Area the next  three Sundays from 10 am – 3 pm, registration is required, donations are appreciated.

A virtual park experience is promised by the East Bay Regional Park District (https://www.ebparks.org/activities/digital_learning/default.htm). Park Naturalists tell you everything from how to dissect a flower to why you should count worms in your soil.

Participate in the City Nature Challenge, April 24th – 27th, 2020! You’ll have to download the free iNaturalist app and upload your findings (https://citynaturechallenge.org/).

Or how about playing a nature bingo? (https://drive.google.com/file/d/121rcsGxlSuXQ7ekmkKzEO-h9H-4xqova/view)

On May 6th you can join the live streamed walk of the Los Gator Creek, RSVP required (https://www.savedbynature.org/event-info/creek-tales-nature-walk). Saved By Nature is an amazing organization whose goal is to bring nature to the people that can’t physically go and see it themselves. In the old times this meant persons by illnesses bound to their beds. 

Screenshot of the parktracks website.

For a calming 12 minute listening experience I recommend ParkTracks, a compilation of nature sounds (https://findyourpark.com/about/news/parktracks).

There are many resources out for you to explore. Let’s all enjoy nature close to home right now, so we can flatten the curve. 

Happy Earth Day!