Hongwanji children’s fest celebrates culture, family

Takeshi Fujita, chairperson of the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Children’s Festival, is focused on fun, not profits.

The festival, held at the Hanapepe Buddhist Temple on Saturday, began in 2000 as a day to share Japanese culture.

Seven years later, the event has grown to include a variety of activities to engage kids and kids at heart.

Fujita said the origin of the festival is rooted in the congregation’s desire to do things for the community as well as the African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child.

West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission is a consolidation of the Koloa, Hanapepe and Waimea Buddhist temples, which means the mission resonates among a larger group.

“We found that, combined, we are able to do more activities and more people can be involved,” Fujita said.

Sarah Styan, of Hanapepe, made the event a family affair, bringing her husband, Art, and his sister, who timed a visit from Honolulu to coincide with the festival.

“They have great things for children to do,” Styan said as her 4-year-old daughter, Amelia, had pictures taken dressed in a kimono.

Betty Ihara brought her three grandchildren after hearing about the festival at her oshibana class.

Oshibana, or pressed flower, greeting cards was one of more than 20 activities available for kids and adults.

Fujita, who teaches oshibana at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center and the Hanapepe library, provided the flowers and ferns. And volunteers such as Sakiko Okihara and Nobuko Tomomitsu helped participants use the dried flowers to design pictures.

Along the same lines, volunteers helped children make paper doll cards using chiyogami, or decorated silk-screened paper.

Children also made lei with Job’s tears and beads.

In addition, members of Taiko Kaua‘i performed and taught participants how to make gyotaku designs. They provided the fish that had been cut in half and dried.

Participating children applied acrylic paint and placed the rice paper on top of the painted fish and pressed down so the print would transfer to the rice paper. After the paint dried, participants doctored the print with colored pencils and painted the eyes.

A silent auction featured ceramic pagodas by Shirley Izuka and a quilt by Taketa. Bonsai by Masaki Teshima and a quilted baby blanket by Ayame Taketa were among the prizes.

The Children’s Festival is one of two signature events hosted by the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission. The other is the Lonesome Graves program in which volunteers place marigolds or other flowers on Kaua‘i Veteran’s Cemetery gravesites in honor of Veterans Day.

Fujita said there would be no children’s festival next year, though the temples will resume to celebrate the their coinciding centennials in 2009 and 2010.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com.

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