HANAPEPE — Zyli Azay Rita, 1, clutched the bag containing a small mochi that was graced with an origami kaeru, or frog, while her head twirled around to the excitement while being held in her mom’s arms in the warm Westside sun at the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission.
“She’s 1 year old,” said mom Cherisse Rita. “We had her 1-year party in the hall recently. Everything was so clean.”
They were among the more than 100 people, including WKHM members, representatives of other Hongwanji temples, and Bishop Eric Matsumoto of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission on Oahu who joined the Rev. Tomo Hojo and leaders of the WKHM in dedicating the completion of the renovation of the WKHM Hanapepe Temple social hall last weekend.
“We’re also celebrating the long-term lease by Black Horse Roasters of California for the WKHM Koloa Temple,” said Alton Miyamoto of the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission. “Our members are not getting any younger, and maintaining the property is getting harder to do, so having a long-term lease finalized is a big burden off our shoulders.”
Those reasons for celebration brought forth the mochi maki, or throwing of mochi from the rooftop of the renovated social hall that housed a special altar. WKHM members also created special origami kaeru out of $2 bills to celebrate the event that took place following the Kauai Buddhist Council calendar of bon dances.
“Mochi maki, or mochi throwing, is a Japanese traditional event in which mochi is thrown to those who get together on the occasion of the construction of a new house,” Hojo said.
“Mochi, usually created from select premium rice, symbolizes happiness, and therefore, throwing mochi symbolizes the sharing of happiness to those who collect them.”
Miyamoto said the completion of work to the 2,100- square-foot social hall involved reroofing the structure, replacing the hall’s doors and windows, doing maintenance repairs to the walls, and repainting everything.
“But we’re not done yet,” Miyamoto said. “Now that bon dance is pau, we’ll start work on renovating the kitchen.”
Dennis Kurokawa, the WKHM facilities committee head, estimated the total work should come in at less than $250,000.
“This includes a lot of the work being done for free,” Kurokawa said. “Everything started because the roof was leaking. We had a bid of $160,000 before Masami Kouchi stepped forward and said, ‘We can do this.’”
Kouchi was named the contractor for the project and coordinated the efforts that included electrician Alvin Yano working with his apprentices for the electrical work, and other sub-contractors doing what they could to help the project.
“We don’t have the final figures yet,” Kurokawa said. “But we estimate the final cost to come in at around $200,000 to $250,000.”