Bon dance goes virtual

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Ondo Drummers perform the Betcho, the traditional final number at bon dance, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Ondo Drummers demonstrate the towel version of the Betcho dance, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Virtual bon dance hosts Ron Wood and Gerald Hirata talk about food, something that was missing, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rev. Hohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission performs the Iwakuni Ondo as a dancer performs the dance, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    The Soto Zen Ondo Dancers perform “Kitaguni no Haru,” a number recorded by Torao Hikariyama and recalling days of a hometown in Hokkaido, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Virtual means no one is around the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple, Saturday except the video tent and bon dance hosts Ron Wood and Gerald Hirata.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Taiko Kaua‘i gets a group photo with the World Peace Kannon statue and Bohdi Tree, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    An attendant from Da Meat Cooking Gang checks the grill for heat, ready to replenish coals from the kiawe fire, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Ann Hashisaka of Kaua‘i Kookie hands out individually packaged manju dessert for the fundraising bento, Saturday during the virtual bon dance at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Dancers from Taiko Kaua‘i perform the Fukushima Ondo to set the tone for the virtual bon dance, Saturday at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple in Hanapepe.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Members of Taiko Kaua‘i raise the level of excitement during the opening segment of the virtual bon dance, Saturday at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

HANAPEPE — Sunglasses are alright, said one of the Taiko Kaua‘i performers fidgeting nervously, Saturday as the hour for the virtual bon dance drew closer at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple in Hanapepe.

There was an eerie calmness in the hot afternoon sun as the activity associated with the bon dance was screened by the temple.

“We can’t, or not supposed to, hang around and even watch the other performances,” another Taiko Kaua‘i dancer said. “We have to just do our performance and leave.”

The drive-through fundraising bento lunch, coordinated with community contributions provided by Stephanie Iona, was relocated to the back of the church, adjoining the Hanapepe Stadium complex, and screened from the street. “No Parking” signs along Kaumuali‘i Highway kept curiosity-seekers from stopping to view the church that was gayly-decorated with hundreds of pink lanterns, each bearing the name of a deceased person.

“Everyone gets temperature screened,” said Rebecca Carnate. “I’m in the role of my real life, a nurse, not a volunteer.”

The Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple presented the virtual bon dance that featured greetings from Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami done virtually, and a classic representation of the various performances in a live event done with strong considerations for the health and safety, social distancing, and face mask guidelines set up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Japanese Grandma Keiko Napier did the Flying Saucer fundraising, Friday,” Hirata said. “There were church members helping, and a lot of other community volunteers like Kay Hill and the West Kaua‘i Lions Club, the Lawai International Center, and more.”

Napier said they sold more than 700 Flying Saucers.

Many of those Friday volunteers returned Saturday to help Chef Carla Dusenberry and her corps of volunteers assemble the fundraising bento lunch that was available in a contactless, drive-through format until minutes before the first drumbeat sounded, signaling the ondo portion of the event.

The bento, along with a COVID-19-inspired face mask and tote bag, was sold out almost as quickly as it was announced.

Hirata said an earlier recorded version of the bon service was also aired Saturday morning ahead of the live bon dancing.

“Wear a mask!” Hirata said. “Face the pandemic with the spirit of Obon! Carry on with the spirit of Aloha! Although we have canceled our Soto Zen Bon Festival, we will not forgo a long-standing tradition. Obon is a time to remember those who came before us. Ancestral spirits return to visit. It is a time of joy for families and friends. It is a celebration of life.”

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

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