Bon dance season opens on busy Westside evening

HANAPEPE — There was a lot of activity in Hanapepe Friday, as evidenced by the line of cars crawling along Kaumualii Highway — a bon dance at the West Kauai Hongwanji, Hanapepe Temple, Zumba classes at the Hanapepe United Church of Christ, the Lula Roe pop-up and the weekly Hanapepe Art Night.

“I came early to get a good parking space,” said Ora Tashiro. “But everything was already taken, and the craft fair at the Hanapepe Public Library doesn’t open until at least 6 p.m.”

Tashiro was among the many people who spent time enjoying food from the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission, Hanapepe Temple bon dance, while waiting on the start of the hatsubon. The hatsubon was the first bon remembering people who passed away between the last bon dance of 2016 and Friday night’s start of the 2017 bon celebrations.

“We lost our mother last month,” a visitor from Arizona said. “We have our sister’s baby’s first luau this weekend, and tonight is bon, so it was a perfect opportunity to return.”

The Rev. Tomo Hojo of the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission said bon is a time to remember and honor all those who have passed on before us.

“The quilted mat set on the altar featuring a Hawaiian quilt motif was created by Chizue Yoshioka Teshima, one of our members whose hatsubon we celebrate tonight,” Hojo said. “We also will have a lei presentation for Mrs. Aiko Nakaya, who has taught countless numbers of people to dance. She is suffering from an incurable cancer, and The Men of the Koi Dynasty, the women from the Shinbuyo Kai, and the church will be thanking her.”

The bon dance finds its spiritual origin with Mogallana, one of the Sakyamuni Buddha’s disciples, rejoicing over his mother’s freedom from pain and suffering. In Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji, bon is a time of expressing gratitude, a time of reflection and acknowledging a sense of indebtedness to others — especially one’s predecessors — and oneness with Amida Buddha, Hojo said.

A light rain blanketed the dancers and spectators as The Men of the Koi Dynasty were joined by the women of the Shinbuyo Kai in the bon dance ring anchored by the central yagura in a special performance for the Japanese dance sensei.

James Yamamoto of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission was joined by Walter Yasumoto in helping cook saimin for the endless orders that streamed into the kitchen from the counters.

“I won’t be doing this this weekend,” Yamamoto said, interrupting his culinary duties by sneaking out for photographs. “I have a different job at the Lihue Hongwanji bon dance.”

Hojo said members of different Buddhist churches help each other during bon dance season.

Lihue Hongwanji Mission hosts bon dance Friday and Saturday night at its Kapaia temple. Dinner service and games get under way at 6 p.m. with the bon dance starting at 7:30 p.m. Motorists are asked to be mindful of the traffic monitors who will be on duty on Kuhio Highway fronting the church. Motorists should also allow extra time to get to their destinations while passing through the area. The public is invited and there is no admission.

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