Hanapepe Soto Zen bon brings the past to now

HANAPEPE — “Our Obon festivities at the Hanapepe Zenshuji make it the biggest event we host all year,” said Gerald Hirata of the Zunshuji Soto Zen Temple.

Obon festivities begin with an obon service led by the Rev. Shuji Komagata of the ‘Aiea Soto Mission Taiheji today and Saturday starting at 6 p.m. followed by a special taiko performance and bon dancing to start at 7:30 p.m. on both nights.

“At the Zenshuji Soto Zen Temple, we will be celebrating at least 95 years of bon tradition which has been associated with the temple,” Hirata said. “The original temple was built in 1918 at Wahiawa Camp 3, McBryde Sugar Plantation, and replaced by the current temple in Hanapepe in 1978.”

He said the tradition may have started even before 1918 when a priest arrived from Japan in 1904 and used a Japanese school classroom for church services.

“At Soto Zen, we take pride in honoring the past and embracing the present, as time changes,” Hirata said. “In the past, there were strong elements of Okinawan tradition with colorful dances with drums, flags and sticks while the men sang and played the sanshin, an Okinawa stringed instrument.”

Hirata said he experienced the Okinawan song and dance, called eisa, when he was 7 or 8 years old. The tradition disappeared in the 1950s.

“We will see eisa again,” he said. “At Zenshuji, we are proud to share and restore this tradition once again.”

To accommodate the present, the dance ring has been expanded, and  dining under a tent will complement the many types of food items being served up by temple members and volunteers.

Parking will be at the adjacent Hanapepe Ball Park with ample signs pointing the way.

Additionally, a free bus service will run from Kapa‘a. The bus, an Akita Bus Service 44-passenger vehicle, will leave the Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission, located across the Kapa‘a Shopping Center, at 6 p.m. and make stops at the Big Save parking lot in Lihu‘e at 6:20 p.m., the Regency at Puakea at 6:30 p.m., the Menehune Food Mart in Lawai at 6:45 p.m. and the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center at 6:50 p.m., reaching Hanapepe by around 7 p.m.

“We always have nice weather on the Westside,” Hirata said. “Please join us, and help us spread the good word.”

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