#ChurchSunday series: 2017 Big Island Bon Dances

#ChurchSunday series: 2017 Big Island Bon Dances

Summer time is obon season in Hawaii! Every year from June through August, the annual Japanese Buddhist tradition of o-bon festivals takes place all over Hawaii Island. These fun cultural events tend to draw large crowds and are renown for serving delicious food at reasonable prices.

bon dances

Lanterns adorn the Buddhist temple grounds during bon dances.

A Japanese tradition dating back more than 500 years, o-bon festivals, or bon for short, celebrate life and pay tribute to the dead. Typically held on a Friday or Saturday evening, the bon dance festivals feature taiko drumming, dancing, and lots of yummy food.

Lighted paper lanterns are strung across the temple grounds with an elevated stage called a yagura decorated with white and red ribbons at the center of the festivities.

bon dances

Bon dance festivals feature an elevated stage called a yagura decorated with white and red ribbons. Taiko drummers perform as part of the festivities.

Dancers wear happi coats and cotton yukata kimonos and dance (called the bon dori) in a circle around the yagura while musicians playing string and wind instruments perform atop the stage.

When Japanese workers came to Hawaii in the 1800s to work on the sugar plantations, they brought their cultural traditions with them and built small Buddhist temples, called hongwanji in the communities in which they lived.

bon dances

Bon dances are renown for their delicious food.

During the sugar plantation era, bon dances were often the big event of the summer and today they still draw folks from far and wide, in part due to the legendary amount of delicious food, which is sold as a fundraiser for the host hongwanji.

Bon festivals are a great way to learn about local cultural traditions, sample some amazing food, and have fun. There’s a welcoming vibe to these family-friendly events, and admission is often free. What’s more, you don’t need to be Japanese or Buddhist to participate. Join in the dancing if you wish (it’s not difficult) or sit and talk story with friends.

bon dances

Bon dancers wear happi coats and cotton yukata kimonos and dance (called the bon dori) in a circle around the yagura.

If you haven’t been to one, I encourage you to check out a bon dance – it’s one of the things that make living in Hawaii so special.

Here’s a list of the remaining bon dances taking place on the Big Island this summer. Info is courtesy of Hawaii Herald, the Hawaii Japanese American Journal. To see and learn about more Big Island historic churches, follow me on Instagram at @DeniseLaitinen.

 

July 2017 bon dances 

July 8 (Sat.)

Hilo Meisho-in, 7 p.m.
following 6 p.m. service. Obon service on Sunday, July 9, at 10 a.m.
(97 Olonä St., 935-6996)

Kohala Jodo Mission, 7 p.m.
following 5 p.m. service
(54-541 Kapaau Rd., 775-0965)

Pa‘auilo Hongwanji, 7:30 p.m.
following 6 p.m. graveside service; bon service at 6:30 p.m.
(43-1477 Hauola Rd., 776-1369)

Kona Daifukuji Soto Mission, 7-10 p.m.

following 6:30 p.m. service; (322-3524)

 

July 14-15 (Fri./Sat.)

Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, 7-10 p.m., following 6 p.m. Hatsubon service, food booths available; Obon service on Sunday, July 16: 9 a.m. English and 10:30 a.m. Japanese

(398 Kilauea Ave., 961-6677)

July 15 (Sat.)

Honokaa Hongwanji, 7 p.m.

following 5:30 p.m. bon service; 3:30 p.m. graveside service at Kukuihaele Cemetery; 4 p.m. graveside service at Honokaa Cemetery

(45-516 Lehua St., 775-7232)

Keei Buddhist Church (Kona Hongwanji), 7 p.m.

following 6 p.m. service; cemetery service at 5 p.m. 83-5569 Middle Keei Rd., 323-2993)

 

July 22 (Sat.)

Hilo Hooganji Mission, 7:30 p.m.

following 6 p.m. service Obon service on Sunday, July 23, at 9:30 a.m.; Toro Nagashi at Wailoa Harbor on Sunday, July 23, at 7 p.m.

(457 Manono St., 935-8331)

 

Kona Hongwanji, 7 p.m.

following lantern parade at 6:30 p.m.; Hatsubon service on Sunday, July 23, at 9 a.m.

(81-6630 Mamalahoa Hwy., 323-2993)

Papaaloa Hongwanji, 6 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service (35-2026 Old Mamalahoa Hwy.,

(35-2026 Old Mamalahoa Hwy., 962-6340)

 

July 28 (Fri.)

Hilo Dajingu, 6 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service

(10 Anela St., 959-8611)

 

July 29 (Sat.)

Hilo Taishoji Soto Mission, 7:30-10:30 p.m.

following 7 p.m. service; Hatsubon service on Sunday, July 30, at 9 a.m.; Toro Nagashi on Sunday, July 30, at 5 p.m. at the Wailoa River.

(275 Kinoole St., 935-8407)

 

August 2017 bon dances 

Aug. 5 (Sat.)

Hawi Jodo Mission, 6 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service; Obon service on Sunday, Aug. 6, at 10 a.m.

(55-1104 Akoni Pule Hwy., 775-0965)

Kurtistown Jodo Mission, 7 p.m., following Hatsubon and Obon service at 6 p.m. (17-4025 Kuaaina Rd., 935-6996)

Pa‘auilo Kongoji Mission, 7 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service

(43-1461 Hauola Rd., 776-1474)

 

Aug. 12 (Sat.)

Hamakua Jodo Mission, 6 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service

(44-2947 Kalopa Rd., 775-0965)

Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, 7 p.m.

following 5 p.m. service. (324-1741)

 

Aug. 14 (Mon.)

Na‘alehu Hongwanji, obon service only at 6 p.m.

95-5695 Mamalahoa Hwy., 966-9981)

 

Aug. 18 (Fri.)

Life Care Center of Hilo (Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin), 6 p.m., refreshments available

(944 W. Kawailani St., 959-9151)

 

Aug. 19 (Sat.)

Hakalau Jodo Mission, 7 p.m.,

following Hatsubon and Obon service at 6 p.m.

(29-2289 Hanamalo Lp., 963-6110)

Kamuela Hongwanji, 7 p.m.

following 6 p.m. service; 4:30 p.m. graveside service at Kamuela Japanese Cemetery

(65-1110 Mamalahoa Hwy., 885-4481)

 

Aug. 20 (Sun.)

Pahala Hongwanji Mission,

5-9 p.m.; Obon service at 4 p.m.

(96-1123 Pa‘auau Pl., 928-8254)

 

Aug. 26 (Sat.)

Honohina Hongwanji, 7 p.m.,

following 6 p.m. service

(32-896 Mamalahoa Hwy., 345-6869)

Pahoa Senior YBA Hall, 7:30 p.m., following 6:30 p.m. service.

(Corner of Pahoa Village Road and Kauhale Street in downtown Pahoa, 966-9981)

 

Aug. 27 (Sun.)

North Hawaii Hospice, toro nagashi only at 5:30 p.m. at Fairmont Orchid Hotel in South Kohala; local entertainment and taiko performance; food booths available; $10 donation for lantern. (885-7547)

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