Respecting the spirits

LIHUE — It takes a hurricane to make Rev. Leonard Abeshima to miss a cultural celebration.


“His last bon dance was the first one he missed,” said Patrick Watase, a longtime member of the Waimea Shingon Mission, about Abeshima’s dedication to the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. “We were going to recognize his accomplishments during the bon dance, but we had the hurricane out there, so it was safety, first.”

Last year’s hurricane eventually downgraded and missed Kauai.

Abeshima and Watase took part in a proclamation Wednesday announcing Hanamatsuri, or flower festival, on island. The Kauai Buddhist Council will host the annual celebration at the Lihue Hongwanji Mission at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, April 5.

Hanamatsuri celebrates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism when he became enlightened as Shakyamuni Buddha, on the eighth day of the fourth month. 

Abeshima was born in Waimea, spent time on the Big Island, and was in Japan during World War II before returning to Kauai where he served as the minister for the Waimea Shingon Mission until he retired in 2014.

He went to Waimea High School, graduated from the University of the Pacific and trained as a minister at Koyasan University in Japan.

At the start of the war, Abeshima moved to Japan and spent the war years there before coming back to the United States in 1949.

He returned to Kauai for the Waimea Shingon Mission on Feb. 21, 1962, where he served until his retirement.

Rev. Kohtoku Hirao is Abeshima’s successor, making his debut during the Hanamatsuri proclamation.

The public is invited to the Hanamatsuri celebration, where various rites will be observed based on events at the time of Prince Siddharta’s birth in Lumbini Garden.


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