The Kohala Jodo Mission in Kapaau will celebrate its annual Bon Odori Festival at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 12. The public is invited to participate in this free joyous event with traditional and modern Bon dances and taiko drummers. Come early and enjoy a variety of onolicious food available for purchase such as teriyaki, musubi, kaki mochi, hot dogs, chi chi mochi, Jello, shave ice and andagi. Designs by Moira will offer happi coats, hand towels and all-occasion cards.
A special part of the evening will be the “Japanese Lantern Prayer Banner Ceremony.” Added last year, this new facet was included in the mission’s O-Bon activities in tribute to the Floating Lantern ceremony held at Ala Moana Park on Oahu by the Shinnyo-en Temple. There, small, lighted boats carry messages on the ocean to departed loved ones; the lights serve to guide them home and the messages reassure them of continued love and honor from family and friends.
The Kohala Jodo Mission, being landlocked, has prayer banners decorated with silhouettes of Japanese lanterns. People will be able to write messages of remembrance and prayers on these banners, which will be strung on lines above the dancers. After the Bon dance, the banners will be removed and handled in a spiritually respectful way under the guidance of the Rev. Wajira Wansa.
“Volunteers have worked tirelessly since last October, making banners to ensure everyone who wanted to participate had a banner. The mission is again offering banners free to the public,” explained Ohta. “All banners will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until they run out.
“The mission invites people of all religions to join in honoring and remembering friends and loved ones,” she said.
This year’s lantern ceremony will begin with the blessing and raising of the banners. The ceremony will also include a tribute to the men and women who gave their lives defending our country and others so people can live in safety and freedom.
The banners are the result of countless hours of handcrafting by volunteers. Some banners take days to complete. In addition to the free ones, some larger banners will be available for purchase. Many are one-of-a-kind. The booth will open at 5 p.m.
Wansa and members of the Kohala Jodo Mission hope folks of all ages will actively participate in the celebration of O-Bon. The festival was brought to Hawaii and popularized by Japanese immigrants of the Buddhist faith and has become a traditional summer festival. The belief is that during the O-Bon festival the spirits of the departed return to visit family and friends. Bon dance is a welcome dance for them and a time of celebration. O-Bon is a time to remember, reflect, and offer gratitude and honor to family members and friends who have passed on. Today, O-Bon has grown to include all people who wish to honor deceased family and friends. It often includes people who just have fun dancing and consuming a variety of refreshments.
An important part of O-Bon is the observance of “the Hatsubon” ceremony, which commemorates the first anniversary of a friend or loved one’s passing. Each year Bon dances are especially dedicated to those who had passed away since the last O-Bon.
Bon dancing is probably the most popular of Japanese folk dancing. Dancers wear a yukata (cotton kimono) or a happi coat and dance around the yagura, which is a high scaffold. Bon dances are usually performed in two circles with lead dancers in the inner circle. Many of the dances have four to five movements and are easy to learn by watching the lead dancers.
“The mission is able to offer the banners to the public because of dedicated volunteers and donations of fabric,” said Ohta. “Your time and donations of fabric, of any size, will be greatly appreciated.” Contact her at 889-5334 if you are interested in helping.
“Your kokua to help the mission make this an annual tradition is greatly appreciated,” she said.