The work is part of the build-up toward this weekend's Obon Festival, a Japanese celebration honoring ancestors, at the temple on Saturday, Aug. 3, from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 4, from noon to 9:30 p.m.
Okano, who is Awakawa's co-chair for the festival's cultural programming, said the festival has historically been a community event, and each area celebrates in its own unique way. In Palo Alto that means the signature Obon Odori dance, a dance that the temple's new reverend, Dean Koyama, said is the core of the festival.
"It came to be an event where those of us who are living will think about who we are grateful to and will remember the people that passed before us," Okano said. "So the dance also will commemorate lives past and appreciate the moment we are here."
The dance will be Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
It was originally called the "Good Harvest Dance" when dancers would call ancestral spirits to help with the harvest.
Arakawa said that the dance is an expression of gratitude towards family and ancestors who have shaped each individual's character. Circles in the dance symbolize giving life to memories, where one is connected to the living and the dead, she said.
The dance won't be the only spectacle this weekend. On Saturday, a reading, question-and-answer session and book signing will feature three authors: Susan Austin, author of the children's book "The Bamboo Garden"; Tom Graves, author and photographer for the portraits and stories in "Twice Heroes: America's Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea"; and Naomi Hirahara, author of her detective series' latest installment "Strawberry Yellow: A Mas Arai Mystery."
The festival will also feature exhibits focused on bonsai (the art of growing miniature plants), suiseki (spiritual art with natural stones), ikebana (flower arrangements) and various other forms of art.
Both days will feature Taiko drums, Buddhist services by the new reverend, samurai and martial-arts demonstrations and numerous other musical performances.
"It gives us an opportunity to self-reflect," Arakawa said. "The way you learn about your religion is applying to your everyday life. We get a lot of opportunities to reflect on what we're doing and our actions."