Chochin lights the way

HANAPEPE — Bon is a time of celebration as spirits of the departed return home, said Gerald Hirata, president of the Hanapepe Soto Zen temple which will celebrate its annual bon dance, July 22 and 23.

Preparations for this festive “Celebrating Our Roots” got underway Thursday morning when church volunteers were joined by students from the Waimea High School Jr ROTC program led by BreeAnn Cayaban and Sgt. Major Keith Castaneda.

“They need to learn,” Castaneda said. “They need to know so when it’s their time to do this, they’ll know how to do things.”

Hirata was at the head of unpacking the chochin, or lanterns, which are the roots of the colorful cultural experience.

“Have you noticed our colorful pink lanterns that decorate our temple every year during our bon festival?” Hirata said. “Each lantern remembers a loved one who passed through a name tag attached to the chochin. The lanterns guide the departed spirits to join the living at the festival in dance.”

He said people have an opportunity to remember a loved one by a one-time donation. This will give them a name tag and a lantern which will join the collection of more than 300 lanterns the church stewards.

“We also have a lantern from a lady whose husband passed away and she brought his ashes to be scattered here because he loved Kauai so much,” Hirata said. “She was so happy she could get a lantern, she even wrote a letter to Mufi Hannemann, the head of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. That resulted in a story appearing in a local newspaper.”

The link of lanterns to the past will feature a historical “Celebrating Our Roots” exhibit in one of the tents set up to resemble a Japanese street. The display will feature plantation life, pidgin English, children’s games, a history of bon dance, the temple’s history and “Hole Hole Bushi,” the saga of the Japanese arrival in Hawaii where they labored on the plantations.

Melody Miyamoto Waters, a local girl turned author, historian, and college professor, will still be here and will have a book signing in the exhibit tent.

The intermission program will feature the Ryusenji Tagura Gumi, a taiko group from Wahiawa, Oahu who will perform along with the Kauai Ondo Drummers.

Hirata said because the bon dance takes place on Friday and Saturday, the Hanapepe Soto Zen temple will host a shuttle bus service to the weekly Hanapepe Art Night from 6 to 10 p.m.

The bon dance runs from 6 to 10:30 p.m.

Bon dancing is scheduled to start at 7:20 both nights.

Information: 346-4650 or


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