Obon season in Hawaiʻi is special. Bon dances are so prevalent here that every summer, an exhaustive calendar advertising every single bon dance in the islands appears in newspapers and blogs. Local communities, regardless of religious affiliations, descend upon their neighborhood hongwanji to engage in fellowship, to enjoy the food, and to participate in honoring ancestors. It’s a pastime that’s been around since Japanese first immigrated to Hawaiʻi.
Growing up on Kauaʻi, my family went to the neighborhood hongwanji and Jodo mission just for the food. Dinner consisted of teriyaki sticks, flying saucers, and saimin. Oh, the comfort foods of home and the season.
Although bon dances are a tad different here in Hilo, the feeling of walking into a space, seeing the yagura, and people dancing around it, makes me feel at home. These days, I love dancing the night away to the beats of the live ensemble. I don’t know all the dances, but one day, I will.
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