Getting a head start on bon dance season

KAPAIA — Yellow twine criss-crossed one section of the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission social hall.

“That’s where the towels will hang to dry overnight,” said Ted Inouye, chairman for this year’s Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission bon dance.

In the 2007 bon dance schedule released by Rev. Midori Kondo, resident minister for LHM, the Kapaia church will host the first bon dance of the season June 8 and June 9.

Planning for the annual o-bon celebration started several months ago when members of the various committees gathered to analyze last year’s event and started plans for the start of the 10-week bon dance season.

The bon dance towels are one of the more popular attractions at the bon dance, a celebration accoutrement honoring ancestors who have passed on.

Dancers garbed in colorful kimono get a towel from each of the temples they participate in, and visitors who prefer to watch and enjoy some of the church’s offerings of food and activities, may obtain one for a nominal donation.

For the LHM members, the start of the season was signalled over the weekend as ladies gathered with steam irons in hand to flatten out the pieces of cloth that will bear the logo of this year’s LHM bon dance.

“Some churches buy theirs from Japan and don’t have to go through all this,” one of the lady volunteers said.

Inouye, along with Morton Yamasaki, was busy trying to get the silk screen frame and alignment of the towels set for the first print.

Using tacky paper, alignment marks for the fabric were penciled in. A pair of ladies set out the blank fabric in preparation for Inouye and Yamasaki to set the frame and squeegee the ink onto the fabric.

Carefully lifting the frame, the pair would move on to the next setup while other ladies would remove the silk-screened towel and hang them on the lines to dry.

“Each one is hand-made,” the ladies said. “And the design was created by one of the students in the Dharma School, the LHM version of Sunday School.”

That said, the ladies noted the fact that the design was created by a church student made it special.

“You can’t buy this in Japan,” they said.

O-bon is a time when Buddhists believe the spirits of deceased ancestors return to visit their relatives and the bon dance is the celebration of this occasion.

In Hawai‘i, the bon dances have become community gathering places and the Buddhist churches have made these gatherings a major fundraiser by offering a variety of games, activities and food.

Following the Lihu‘e Hongwanji bon dance, the Waimea Shingon Mission will host its bon dance June 15 and 16 followed by the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji, Waimea Temple on June 19 and 20. Kapa‘a Jodo Mission will finish the month bon on June 22 and 23.

Kapa‘a Hongwanji observes its bon dance July 6 and 7 followed by the Waimea Higashi Hongwanji on July 13 and 14.

The WKH, Koloa Temple hosts its bon dance on July 20 and 21 with the Hanapepe Zenshuji Temple closing the month on July 27 and 28.

Koloa Jodo Mission hosts its event Aug. 3 and 4 and the final bon dance of the 2007 season will take place at the WKH, Hanapepe Temple on Aug. 10 and 11.


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