‘He’s never been to a bon dance!’

KAPAIA — Donna Umetsu could not believe what she heard Friday night at the Lihue Hongwanji Mission in Kapaia.

“Can you believe it?” Umetsu said. “He’s lived here his entire life and has never been to a bon dance. He’s never heard of Flying Saucer. This is his first bon dance. I guess it’s like my daughter who never heard of the Hanapepe Art Night — and we live just up the street from it.”

Noel Constantino of Puhi showed up Friday night garbed in a happi coat and ready to experience the local event that draws the community together for the weekends.

Bon is a time to remember and reflect on those who have passed away, said Rev. Kazunori Takahashi of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission who offered a brief prayer of remembrance ahead of the colorful bon dancing.

Bon dancing is a tradition which arrived in Hawaii with the Japanese people who were brought to Hawaii to labor on the plantations. Due to its nature of being open to the community, bon dancing has evolved to become part of the Hawaii lifestyle where communities gather for fellowship and the hosting church uses the function as a fundraiser.

“Thank heaven for these young men of the Lihue Aikido Club,” said Gladys Fujiuchi of the Lihue Hongwanji Women’s Club. “They’re helping to make the Flying Saucers. Our ladies are already working hard doing other things, so we really appreciate having these young men help us.”

Darryl Gerardo was one of those aikido members, his wife Shelley garbed in kimono and dancing.

“We were pretty good,” Darryl said. “We finished everything they made and it’s still early.”

Flying Saucers are a unique Kauai item, usually found at the bon dances with each hosting temple having its own recipe for the filling which goes between two slices of bread and is toasted in a special mold over an open flame to develop its unique flavor.

Janice Ishibashi of the West Kauai Club 100 was another dancer, clutching her kimono wrapped securely and shopping in the bon dance country store.

“My parents passed away last year,” she said. “I had to get dressed up and do a couple of dances. Now, I’m just waiting for my husband to find me.”

The Lihue Hongwanji Mission bon dance marks the start of the 2016 bon dance season hosted by the Kauai Buddhist Council. This Friday and Saturday, the bon dance moves to the Waimea Shingon Mission where the dancing begins starting at 7:30 p.m.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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