WAIMEA — The season’s first bon dance had a Latin flair, thanks to visiting students from Texas.
Bon is similar to Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, explained Dulce Velazquez, while she scooped a bite of lemon cake at the Waimea Shingon Mission Friday night.
Velazquez was joined by two dozen other students from Eastfield College in Dallas, Texas, in experiencing the first bon dance of the season, hosted by the Kauai Buddhist Council.
“I want to sample the flying saucer,” said Elizabeth Ferrara, another Eastfield student. “I heard this was created at the bon dance, and is available only if you go to bon dances.”
Kauai Community College instructor Brian Yamamoto said the group is one of several visiting the college during the summer.
Having them attend a bon dance is just another way to let the visitors experience the local culture.
Bon festivals are celebrated in their own way on Kauai, states a flier prepared by the Hanapepe Soto Zen Temple with the help of a grant.
Activities include traditional Japanese folk dancing around a yagura, or raised platform, with distinctive music and live performances of singing and taiko, an aspect which thrilled the visiting Texan students.
Dancers dress in traditional kimono, yukata, or light summer kimono, or happi coats.
“I grew up here and used to come to this,” said Verna Kabazawa-Mikaru of Honolulu. “I come back to help every year. The bon dances are pretty much the same as when I was growing up, except maybe there’s more food now.”
The summer bon season is an expression of Japanese-American folk culture and religious traditions which evolved in Hawaii over five generations, carrying a universal theme of honoring one’s ancestors.
During bon, it is believed ancestral spirits return, guided by colorful chochin, or paper lanterns, with offerings of food placed on family altars so the spirits are able to feast with the living.
The bon dances continue June 12 and 13 at the Koloa Jodo Mission with the bon dancing to start at 7:30 p.m. on both nights.