The Obon Festival in Japan is a time to come together and celebrate life and family. During Obon, families join together and call upon their ancestors to celebrate life and the path in which they took.   

When creating OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen, owners Brandon Katz and Andre Joffroy envisioned using the values OBON stands for to create a complete Japanese dining experience. Using traditional and modern methods, Chef Paulo Im has created an innovative menu featuring Japanese food like Tucson has yet to experience. OBON hopes to become a staple of the Downtown Tucson dining scene.


Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives.

Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples.

At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.

Obon is observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month of the year, which is July according to the solar calendar. However, since the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Obon is still observed in mid August in many regions of Japan, while it is observed in mid July in other regions.

The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan's three major holiday seasons, accompanied by intensive domestic and international travel activities and increased accommodation rates. In recent years, travel activitiy in mid August has become somewhat more spread out and less concentrated, but it is still considerable on certain days

Matt Martinez

Bar Manager and Mixologist

Matt is a Tucson native who is no stranger to the city’s restaurant and bar scene.  He spent two years as a sushi chef, learning technique and foundation from Manhattan transplant, Fei Cheng.  It was this experience that reinforced for Matt the concept, “mis en place”.  Prior to Umi Star’s closing in January 2014, Matt worked as head chef and manager there, during which time he created and executed an entirely new menu. 

Shortly thereafter, Matt worked at Nox as a bartender, but soon took his mixology skills over to 47 Scott.  During his time with Scott & Co., he helped create both seasonal and special events menus, along with his invention of 10 new and exciting cocktails.  His intelligent mixing and creativity is what earned Matt a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, as a regional winner of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience. 

Matt’s immediate plans for Obon’s bar will include a list of rotating classics, Japanese-influenced original cocktails, together with a widely varied sake list.  The fun won’t stop there, though, as Matt has visions of punch bowls, exotic, large-format cocktails and (fingers crossed) a frozen drink machine.  Matt is excited to bring a high quality bar to the busiest street corner downtown, where he and his friendly staff promise a good time for all.   

Paulo Im

Executive Chef and Culinary Partner

Paulo Im comes from a rich and diverse food culture. Born in Brazil to Korean parents, Paulo was exposed to a variety of cuisines at a very young age. Paulo began his career here in the U. S. in 2004, working both the kitchen and sushi line at Sakana Sushi Bar in Phoenix, Arizona. After 3 years of perfecting his sushi skills at Sakana, Paulo moved to Tucson and started working under Chef Tai Obata at RA Sushi Bar, where he remained over several years, perfecting his craft. 

While working along Chef Watabe, Paulo had the privilege of learning older, traditional sushi methods, some of which have been lost over time and are rare to see in American sushi bars. In 2012, Paulo returned to his position at RA Sushi Bar as the Executive Chef where he continued to perfect his skills.

The combination of his classical training, as well as his years spent learning “old” methods of sushi, make our Culinary Partner the perfect chef to create Obon’s menu.  Paulo will be combining traditional sushi and Japanese fare with new American methods as well as his own spin on ramen.