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Bon dance season begins

LIHUE — People around the island have been preparing for the bon dance season which starts this weekend at the Waimea Shingon Mission.

The Waimea Shingon Mission was scheduled to host the final bon dance of the 2014 season, but the festivities were canceled due to the impending threat of Hurricane Iselle which battered the Big Island.

Practices have been held since the end of April for people who want to participate in the dance honoring and celebrating the spirits of family ancestors who are believed to return to Earth during bon, a tradition stemming from the Buddhist religion.

Hosted by the Kauai Buddhist Council, bon dances are held throughout the island with the public being welcome to join the celebratory and festive atmosphere at the event starting at 7:30 each evening. The hosting Buddhist church occasionally hosts special bon services starting at 6:30 p.m.

The dancing, done by participants in traditional Japanese summer kimono, or yukata, or happi coats, or informal short jacket, forms the focal point of the event. Participants are welcome to join the dancing which is done to recorded music accompanied by live taiko performers. During the traditional “intermission,” half-time entertainment of either traditional dance or live taiko performances help keep the night going.

There will be food and drink at each dance.

There is no admission to enjoy the event which arrived in Hawaii with the Japanese who were brought to the Islands to labor in the plantations. Over the years, the tradition has been adopted into the lifestyle and grown to become a true community event where people gather to enjoy the summer weekends.

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