Smiling faces

KAPAA — Airi Ohashi had a homework assignment to learn about Japanese culture in Hawaii. 

So Thursday, the fourth grader from Toyama, Japan joined several hundred people at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital to celebrate the bon dance.

“They don’t have bon dances where they live,” said Brian Yamamoto, Kauai Community College instructor. 

Josie Pablo, recreation director for Mahelona Hospital, said while other hospitals use bon dance functions as fundraisers, Mahelona bon dance brings the culture to the residents. 

“This is wonderful,” said Col. Bob Levoit, head of the Kapaa High School JROTC, whose mother was admitted to Mahelona Hospital just a week ago. “The staff is very professional, and to have an event like this is why I’m here. Look at all the residents’ happy faces.”

Gertrude Rodrigues, with her daughter, Aloma Rubin of Richmond, California, was also enjoying the event for the first time.

“I like to go dance, too,” Gertrude said. “But my legs are getting old.”

Eugene Onio Punzal was with his grandson, Taj Akoni Punzal, strapped to his chest.

“Taj is just 1 year and eight days old,” the elder Punzal said. “Our dad was a resident here for three years, so we have to come support.”


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