Manju Monday, then the bon dance

HANAPEPE — Monday was Manju Day so it didn’t matter that rains from the passage of former Hurricane Fernanda blanketed the grounds of the Kauai Soto Zenshuji temple in Hanapepe.

“We mixed the dough yesterday to get ready for today, when we are baking close to 2,000 manju for the bon dance this weekend,” Leila Kuboyama said Monday.

The baked manju will be part of the church’s offering when it hosts its bon dance as part of the Kauai Buddhist Council calendar Friday and Saturday at the temple’s grounds.

“We’re next to the last (bon dance) on the calendar,” Carla Dusenberry said. “Next year, we’re going to be the last.”

Gerald Hirata, president of Kauai Soto Zen, said the bon dance showcases Hawaii’s diverse, multicultural heritage and, this year, the church celebrates its roots with a special exhibit on the issei, or first-generation Japanese, women and the culture they practiced when arriving in Hawaii to labor on the sugar and pineapple plantations.

Bon, in Buddhist practice, is a time to reflect on the efforts and work done by those who have gone ahead of us and enable us to enjoy the life we live today.

The bon dances at the different churches around the island grew from the practice brought to Hawaii by the issei workers and families, and Hirata said there will be exhibits on some of the songs sang by the issei as they labored in the fields.

The cultural aspect overflows into the food offerings, said Dusenberry, who oversees the food at the Kauai Soto Zen.

“We’re going to have baked mayonnaise chicken. That’s my grandma’s recipe,” Dusenberry said. “People come here for the food, so we make sure we take care of them.”

The chicken plate will be on the plate lunch menu along with pasteles stew, nishime and a smoked meat plate. Traditional bon festival fare include flying saucers, pronto pups, andagi, saimin, yakitori, mochi, manju and sushi.

In addition to the food booth, other offerings — including baked goods, Spam musubi, Goteburg cups and more — will be available in the country store, where Dusenberry said the church is offering mango seed on Friday night only.

Hirata said with the rain, some of the volunteers were working on preparing the lanterns and name plates as well as the graphic exhibits inside the church.

Karen Tsuneta of California was one of the volunteers.

“We normally don’t come at this time of the year,” Tsuneta said. “But when we heard they needed help, I was going to volunteer my son since we don’t do sightseeing. We mainly take care of errands.”

Festivities run from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with a taiko performance kicking of the bon dancing starting at about 7:30 p.m.

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