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2012 Kaua’i Obon Festival Schedule and Information

In Hawai’i, just about every weekend from June – August, you can find a Bon Dance going on. Obon is a Japanese Buddhist tradition to honor those who have passed on before us.

About Obon

Instead of a somber tribute, Obon is a celebration of life. As an event marking the summer, Obon festivals are like family reunions, traditionally bringing people back to their ancestral homelands. People visit and clean the graves of their departed loved ones and celebrate their lives as a means of strengthening family bonds.

This tradition has been observed for over 500 years in Japan. In Hawaii, the Obon tradition dates back more than 100 years. As many Japanese immigrants came to the islands to work on the plantations, the management made sure that the religious and social needs of the workers and their families were met. Therefore, many of the traditions from the homeland were carried on and encouraged in their new home of Hawai’i.

What is Bon Dancing?

Bon Odori, or Bon dance, refers to the style of group dancing performed at the Obon festival. Performers dance in a circle around a raised wooden scaffold decorated to house drummers and singers. This structure is known as yagura. The dancing area is usually roped off and lanterns are strung overhead. These lanterns are a beacon for the deceased to come and join the celebration.

Bon dancers in traditional Kimono (left); The yagura is the centerpiece of Bon Dance festivities (right)

My favorite things about Bon dances are the colorful kimono, taiko drummers, and of course…the food! Sushi, pronto pops, chicken and beef sticks, and flying saucers are staples at the food booth. All proceeds go to support each temple or mission.

What better way to spend a summer’s eve than watching the dancers sway to the beat of taiko drums and listening to Japanese folk songs? This is another example of Hawai’i’s diverse people and how it truly is a “melting pot” and melding of cultures.

A Taiko drummer

The 2012 Bon Dance Schedule

  • June 22 & 23: Kaua’i Soto Zen Temple
  • June 29 & 30: Koloa Jodo Mission
  • July 13 & 14: West Kaua’i Hanapepe Hongwanji
  • July 20 & 21: Lihu’e Hongwanji
  • July 27 & 28: Waimea Shingon Mission
  • Aug. 3 & 4: Kapa’a Jodo Mission
  • Aug. 10 & 11: West Kaua’i Waimea Hongwanji
  • Aug. 17: Kaua’i Veterans Memorial Hospital

We welcome you to our island home, whether for a few days or for a lifetime, to experience the wonderful lifestyle Kaua’i has to offer. For information on Kaua’i homes and land, please contact me at shaylyn@hawaiilife.com or 808.635.5525.

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Cate McCann Fleming

June 20, 2012

Sounds like an awesome cultural experience… Thanks for sharing this. I do love how so many cultures celebrate death as a natural part of the circle of life, rather than mourning and depression. I will be checking this out for sure! Thanks 🙂

Suzi Glass

July 4, 2012

Cate–
We have participated in a mainland Obon Festival for several years. It is indeed, something to see and experience! There are dancers of all ages, including moms with teeny ones on their backs, pre-schoolers, similarly clad young women from dance schools, whole families, all the way through graceful octogenarians! The color and pageantry are beautiful factors. The dances are not that hard to learn. At the San Jose Betsuin, they even invite everyone from the audience to join in, and some do. Go, and enjoy!!
Suzi

Cate McCann Fleming

June 20, 2012

Sounds like an awesome cultural experience… Thanks for sharing this. I do love how so many cultures celebrate death as a natural part of the circle of life, rather than mourning and depression. I will be checking this out for sure! Thanks 🙂

Suzi Glass

July 4, 2012

Cate–
We have participated in a mainland Obon Festival for several years. It is indeed, something to see and experience! There are dancers of all ages, including moms with teeny ones on their backs, pre-schoolers, similarly clad young women from dance schools, whole families, all the way through graceful octogenarians! The color and pageantry are beautiful factors. The dances are not that hard to learn. At the San Jose Betsuin, they even invite everyone from the audience to join in, and some do. Go, and enjoy!!
Suzi

Kellen Ponce

June 22, 2012

Mahalo for posting the schedule Shaylyn! One of my favorite summer time events, the music, the food, the culture, brings back many memories.

Kellen Ponce

June 22, 2012

Mahalo for posting the schedule Shaylyn! One of my favorite summer time events, the music, the food, the culture, brings back many memories.

Suzi Glass

July 4, 2012

Aloha–
We have participated in the Bon Odori at San Jose Betsuin, (San Jose, California) for several years. As we will be in Kauai the last week in July we would like to at least attend, if not dance, in the Waimea Shingon Mission celebration. Is that possible? Can you send a more detailed schedule and street address for that Obon Festival–or direct me to someone who can? I’d really appreciate it!
Mahalo!
Suzi

Suzi Glass

July 4, 2012

Aloha–
We have participated in the Bon Odori at San Jose Betsuin, (San Jose, California) for several years. As we will be in Kauai the last week in July we would like to at least attend, if not dance, in the Waimea Shingon Mission celebration. Is that possible? Can you send a more detailed schedule and street address for that Obon Festival–or direct me to someone who can? I’d really appreciate it!
Mahalo!
Suzi

Shaylyn Kimura, RS

July 14, 2012

Aloha, I’ve received many calls and emails about more details about the Bon Dances so here it is:

Obon Festivities begin at 6:30 PM (Food Booths, Games, Opening Ceremonies, etc.)
The official Dancing begins at 7:30 PM (Get there early to “save your spot” or else you won’t get to see much of the dancing)
Directions can be found by “Googling” any location mentioned above

Mahalo and Enjoy!

Shaylyn Kimura, RS

July 14, 2012

Aloha, I’ve received many calls and emails about more details about the Bon Dances so here it is:

Obon Festivities begin at 6:30 PM (Food Booths, Games, Opening Ceremonies, etc.)
The official Dancing begins at 7:30 PM (Get there early to “save your spot” or else you won’t get to see much of the dancing)
Directions can be found by “Googling” any location mentioned above

Mahalo and Enjoy!

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